Car of the Week 228: COTY GTS Finale

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This week we are taking a look at the Toyota S-FR. This weeks car is chosen by @Draggon

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A current list of all not yet used cars for COTW:

ALFA ROMEO (3)
4C Launch Edition 2014 (N200)
Giulia TZ2 Carrozzata da Zagato CN.AR750106 1965 (Gr.X)
MiTo 1.4 T Sport 2009 (N200)

Alpine (3)
Vision Gran Turismo 2017 (Gr.1)
Vision Gran Turismo (Gr.X)
Vision Gran Turismo Race Mode (Gr.X)

ASTON MARTIN (5)
DB3S CN.1 1953 (Gr.X)
DB11 2016 (N600)
DP-100 Vision Gran Turismo (Gr.X)
Vantage Gr.4 (Gr.4)
Vulcan 2016 (N800)

AUDI (8)
R8 LMS Audi Team Sport WRT 2015 (Gr.3)
R18 TDI Audi Team Sport Joest 2011 (Gr.1)
R18 TDI Le Mans 2011 (Gr.1)
R18 e-tron 2016 (Gr.1)
Sport quattro S1 Pikes Peak 1987 (Gr.B)
TT Cup 2016 (Gr.4)
TTS Coupe 2014 (N300)
Vision Gran Turismo (Gr.1)

BMW (4)
M4 Coupe 2014 (N400)
M4 Safety Car (Gr.X)
M6 GT3 Walkenhorst Motorsport 2016 (Gr.3)
M6 GT3 M Power Livery 2016 (Gr.3)

BUGATTI (2)
Vision Gran Turismo Gr.1 (Gr.1)
Vision Gran Turismo (Gr.X)

CHEVROLET (1)
Corvette Stingray Race Concept (C2) 1959 (Gr.X)

CITROËN (1)
GT by Citroen Gr.4 (Gr.4)

DODGE (8)
Charger SRT Hellcat Safety Car (N700)
SRT Tomahawk VGT Gr.1 (Gr.1)
SRT Tomahawk VGT Racing (Gr.X)
SRT Tomahawk VGT Street (Gr.X)
SRT Tomahawk VGT Technology (Gr.X)
Viper Gr.4 (Gr.4)
Viper SRT10 Coupe 2006 (N500)
Viper SRT GT3-R 2015 (Gr.3)

FERRARI (4)
250 GT Berlinetta passo corto CN.2521 1961 (N300)
250 GTO CN.3729GT 1962 (Gr.X)
458 Italia 2009 (N600)
Dino 246GT 1971 (N200)

FORD (6)
GT 2006 (N600)
GT LM Spec II Test Car (Gr.3)
Mustang Gr.3 Road Car (N500)
Mustang Gr.B Rally Car (Gr.B)
Mustang GT Premium Fastback 2015 (N400)
Mustang Mach 1 1971 (N300)

GRAN TURISMO (4)
Amuse S2000 GT1 Turbo (N600)
Red Bull X2014 Standard 2014 (Gr.X)
Red Bull X2014 Junior 2014 (Gr.X)
Red Bull X2019 Competition (Gr.X)

HONDA (4)
NSX Gr.3 (Gr.3)
NSX Gr.4 (Gr.4)
S800 1966 (N100)
Sports Vision Gran Turismo (Gr.X)

HYUNDAI (4)
Genesis Gr.3 (Gr.3)
Genesis Gr.4 (Gr.4)
N 2025 Vision Gran Turismo (Gr.1)
N 2025 Vision Gran Turismo (Gr.X)

INFINITI (1)
Concept Vision Gran Turismo (Gr.X)

JAGUAR (6)
D-Type 1954 (Gr.X)
E-Type Coupe 1961 (N300)
F-Type Gr.4 (Gr.4)
XJ13 1966 (Gr.X)
XJR-9 1988 (Gr.1)
Vision Gran Turismo Coupe (Gr.X)

KTM (1)
X-BOW R 2012 (N300)

LAMBORGHINI (6)
Aventador LP700-4 2011 (N700)
Aventador LP750-4 Superveloce 2015 (N800)
Countach LP400 1974 (N400)
Huracan Gr.4 (Gr.4)
Huracan LP610-4 2015 (N600)
Miura P400 Bertone Prototype CN.0706 1967 (N400)

LEXUS (4)
LC500 2017 (N500)
LF-LC GT Vision Gran Turismo (Gr.X)
RC F au Tom's 2016 (Gr.2)
RC F Gr.4 (Gr.4)

MAZDA (5)
Atenza Gr.3 Road Car (N500)
Atenza Gr.4 (Gr.4)
Atenza Sedan XD L Package 2015 (N200)
LM55 Vision Gran Turismo (Gr.X)
RX-Vision GT3 Concept 2020 (Gr.3)

MCLAREN (4)
650S GT3 2015 (Gr.3)
MP4-12c 2010 (N600)
Ultimate Vision Gran Turismo Gr.1 (Gr.1)
Ultimate Vision Gran Turismo (Gr.X)

MERCEDES-BENZ (7)
A45 AMG 4MATIC 2013 (N400)
AMG F1 W08 EQ Power+ (Gr.X)
AMG F1 W08 EQ Power+ Color Variation (Gr.X)
AMG Vision Gran Turismo (Gr.X)
AMG Vision Gran Turismo LH Edition (Gr.X)
AMG Vision Gran Turismo Racing Series (Gr.X)
Sauber C9 1989 (Gr.1)

MINI (2)
Cooper S 2005 (N200)
Clubman Vision Gran Turismo (Gr.X)

MITSUBISHI (4)
Lancer Evolution IV GSR 1996 (N300)
Lancer Evolution Final Edition Gr.3 (Gr.3)
Lancer Evolution Final Edition Gr.B Rally Car (Gr.B)
Lancer Evolution Final Edition Gr.B Road Car (N500)

NISSAN (10)
Concept 2020 Vision Gran Turismo (Gr.X)
Fairlady Z Version S 2007 (N300)
GT-R Gr.B Rally Car (Gr.B)
GT-R Motul Autech 2016 (Gr.2)
GT-R Premium Edition 2017 (N600)
GT-R Safety Car (Gr.X)
GT-R Xanavi Nismo (Gr.2)
R92CP 1992 (Gr.1)
Skyline GT-R V-spec (R33) 1997 (N300)
Skyline GT-R V-spec II Nür (R34) 2002 (N300)

PEUGEOT (8)
208 GTI by Peugeot Sport 2014 (N200)
908 HDI FAP Team Peugeot Total 2010 (Gr.1)
RCZ Gr.3 Road Car (N500)
RCZ Gr.4 (Gr.4)
RCZ Gr.B Rally Car (Gr.B)
L500R Hybrid Vision Gran Turismo 2017 (Gr.X)
L750R Hybrid Vision Gran Turismo 2017 (Gr.1)
Vision Gran Turismo (Gr.X)

PORSCHE (2)
911 GT3 (997) 2008 (N400)
962C 1988 (Gr.1)

RENAULT SPORT (4)
Clio RS 220 EDC Trophy 2015 (N200)
Clio RS 220 EDC Trophy 2016 (N200)
Megane RS Trophy 2011 Safety Car (N300)
R.S.01 GT3 2016 (Gr.3)

SHELBY (1)
Cobra Daytona Coupe 1964 (Gr.X)

SUBARU (6)
BRZ S 2015 (N200)
BRZ Falken Tire/Turn 14 Distribution 2017 (Gr.X)
Impreza Coupe WRX Type R STi Version VI 1999 (N300)
WRX Gr.3 (Gr.3)
WRX Gr.B (Gr.B)
WRX STI Type S 2014 (N300)

TESLA (1)
Model S Signature Performance 2012 (Gr.X)

TOYOTA (13)
86 Gr.4 (Gr.4)
86 Gr.B Rally Car (Gr.B)
86 GRMN 2016 (N200)
86 GT 2015 (N200)
86 GT Limited 2016 (N200)
Crown Athlete G Safety Car (N300)
FT-1 (Gr.X)
FT-1 Vision Gran Turismo (Gr.X)
FT-1 Vision Gran Turismo Gr.3 (Gr.3)
GR Supra Racing Concept (Gr.3)
GR Supra RZ 2020 (N400)
TS030 Hybrid 2012 (Gr.1)
Tundra TRD Pro 2019 (N400)

VOLKSWAGEN (6)
1200 1966 (N100)
Scirocco Gr.4 (Gr.4)
Golf VII GTI 2014 (N200)
GTI Roadster Vision Gran Turismo (Gr.X)
GTI Vision Gran Turismo Gr.3 (Gr.3)
Samba Bus Type 2 (T1) 1962 (N100)



GTS Nordschleife hot lap STOCK Toyota S-FR: 08.51.246​

Kinda quicker, than I thought. Good car.

Driven stock on hard sport tyres without any driving aids, except ABS. First lap in third person view, second one in cockpit view and third one in cinematic replay view. All driven laps are the same lap.

Verdict: maybe a little sleeper?

Comparison with Tsukuba rivals:


 
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Passing this on to the one’s who create their own designs. ;)

While that statement implies nothing will be transferred after the 15th, this article says otherwise.


Basically, get your livery’s all in order folks. :D

I’m also announcing my own Road To GT7, not racing, but getting up to date on my bloody write ups. :lol:
 

Remember when I said that I had the perfect car in mind to close out 2021 with? The car I had in mind was the fourth generation Mazda Roadster, the ND. You see, the Chief Designer of the original NA Roadster, Tanaka Shunji, has sadly passed away on the 12th of December last year, at the age of 75. Now, I'm not going to be the sort of person that pretends to know the guy before the news of their passing, but it still strikes me as a sad loss nonetheless. For what it's worth, this week here at our humble club is dedicated to you, Tanaka–sama.


At a glance, there isn't much else left to be said for the Mazda Roadster that isn't already common knowledge. Having changed so little in its recipe since its inception in 1989, anyone who's ever been around cars know what the instant classic is, what it represents, the things it can make a driver feel, and of course, the things it can't. Low powered, lightweight, often cramped, simplistic, front engine, rear wheel drive, with some of the best ergonomics in the industry with regards to steering feel, stick shift feel, and seating position in the world that would make even the most cynical and jaded of automotive journalists chuckle during a drive. Its low cost of entry, mechanical simplicity, impeccable balance, and the resulting delightful neutrality all make the Roadster a common entry point into more spirited driving, from sanctioned cup car events, insane aftermarket builds, and even the stupid idiot with more money and unfounded confidence than experience in a RWD platform. Trust me, I know this fact far better than I'd like. It's the reason why it was nigh impossible for a time to book a test drive of a Mazda Roadster here in Singapore, and I still have the right side mirror of an NC that punched a hole into the fence of a compound I was "working" security at, which had to be patched up with concertina wire... in the still pouring rain... by me and a few others after our shift.


I know the opening two paragraphs of this review have been ultra bummers. But I think it's an important reminder that, in spite of its cute and unassuming looks, the barebones Roadster is certainly capable of a belying amount of bite, and certainly will not hesitate to lash out if mistreated. It IS a car renowned for being a great car to learn driving techniques in, after all, so one can't really expect it to be nearly as proactive in nannying a dumb driver and hiding their mistakes from them as something more mainstream and expensive, can it? That I think is part of what makes a Roadster such a darling of a car to drive in a spirited manner, and also such an excruciating rarity in today's market, but that sadly means that such stories of stupid wrecks from first timers is often associated with the car.

Completely unrelated person in the photo, don't mind her.

Not that I consider myself new or inexperienced in the context of the game, but even I became much more acquainted with the bite of the ND Roadster S during race day... as did Vic, whom I transformed from "Victorious" to "Victimised" when I crashed into him in our race at Miyabi. So then, I've learned that the ND Roadster has an indiscriminating appetite for murder, regardless of experience. But what is it that makes it so... hungry for souls? (Yes I'm struggling to write this piece in case you couldn't already tell from the delay in publishing it and the whack analogies.)


Well, the single lightest trim of the ND Roadster, the "S", can't even be optioned with a locking differential. Depending on if you're a glass half full or empty person, you can argue that that's for mass savings to allow the S to be the only trim of the popular fourth generation sports car to weigh in back under the magic tonne for the first time since the original NA generation, or simply being cheap. Whatever the case, the open differential of the Roadster S very quickly becomes apparent when the softly sprung car is being driven hard, struggling to cleanly put down even the meager 128HP (95.4kW) that it packs if the car is too off neutral, easily costing momentum out of a corner while forcing drivers to partially lift, lest they risk the entire car snapping once the spinning inside wheel hooks up like a secondary flywheel you've little control over.


Mazda may flaunt "Jinba–Ittai", "Horse and Rider as One", as its tagline, and perhaps no other car in the company's lineup is poised to embody that sentiment as much as its flagship Roadster, the only RWD model the company offers until the rumours of a new Inline 6 RWD Atenza materialise. However, when I drive the ND Roadster in the game, my experience couldn't be much more at odds with that saying. Instead of the car going and behaving exactly as I intuit it, I find that it's disgustingly soft as a sports car—no matter how crappy a set of tyres I fit on it, the car unabashedly pitches, rolls, and yaws as though stretching its suspension for a warm up. The "S" in "Roadster S" could almost stand for "sloppy". I mean, here, take a look at the car as I accidentally slid it on Turn 10 of Laguna Seca on its default Sport Hard tyres.


You can't tell me this amount of body movement looks at all healthy or conducive for anything. Even with what should be ample ground clearance of 140mm (5.51in), the car is almost bottoming out, and I'm almost certain that the wheels should be scraping the flared arches by now had such been simulated in GTS.


The front springs in particular are so disgustingly flimsy that it makes the RWD car with less power than an FF Honda Fit Hybrid understeer more than said FF Honda Fit Hybrid, and that's not even the most atrocious part! If you fit downgraded Comfort tyres in attempt to make the softly sprung car feel more natural to drive, weight takes so long to slosh over the front tyres when you slam the brakes for a corner that it makes the ABS freak the hell out and think the car has way less grip than it will eventually have. Seriously, you've to brake so early for corners because the 990kg (2,183lbs) Roadster stops so badly, one would think an intern at Mazda neglected to print the first digit in its mass figure—its stopping distances are more akin to a car weighing 1,990kg wearing its Yokohama ADVAN Sport V105 195/50R16 tyres. Turn off ABS, and not only does the car stop much better, but the tyres and steering wheel become more communicative simply because the front tyres are actually being, you know, utilised. I know this issue isn't very prominent on the Sport Hard tyres the car comes with by default, but I'm almost certain the car isn't supposed to come with such grippy tyres, since GTS does have a habit of defaulting every production car with them, causing many of them to feel overly grippy and thrown for a loop. Back in earlier Gran Turismo titles, Roadsters have always come default with Comfort tyres, which makes you work harder for lap times and highlight the car's natural tendencies more.


Whichever tyre compound you fit on the Roadster, grippy or grotesque, the Roadster Sloppy is so soft that the rear end of the car becomes as eager and integral to the turning experience as the front end, which incidentally is the only end of the car that the steering wheel is connected to, in case that needed spelling out. The rear end of the car will peek and swing out as though you're Scandi Flicking it if you're too rough with your steering wheel, setting it up for a drift that the car hasn't the power or the locking differential to hold. The rear end of the car sways so much under hard lateral loads that, if you were to, say, attempt to use every millimetre of a track in a pylon course, you'd be smacking the pylons with the rear fenders of the car more often than the front, which is like... oh I don't know. I don't even have a funny quip for that; it's just tragic.


That in itself would've made the car dangerous enough, but couple that with the embarrassing single–point tyre contact physics of this "Real Driving Simulator", and you have in your hands and under your feet an express, non stop bathtub to hell, via rumble strips, uneven road surfaces, or just good old fashioned grass, the last of which caught me out at Miyabi when I pulled the car to the left for "Turn" 2, a flat out left kink. I was using every millimetre of the track on the rightmost edge when I turned too hard, causing the rear end to sway into the grass, causing the crash.

So in conclusion, it's soft and imprecise like a slinky. It's prone to snap oversteering. It understeers like hell on corner entry and exit. It's absurdly dangerous to drive quickly on any tyre compound. Am I dreaming? Or am I going insane?


I think that I might have been spoiled silly by all the faster, louder cars in the game. It's hard not to when the game forces GT500s, LMP1s, or at the very least, a pedestrian 911 GT3 RS on you every now and then. Standards are stupidly high in a digital fantasy that is this game and the life it lends us. Everything is loud, quick, precise, stiff, grippy, hardcore, and built with a larger budget. But what those cars never really offer, or at least highlight to me as much, is the natural tendencies of a chassis suspended above four wheels, and the blistering purity of it. Yes, it pitches, rolls, and yaws all the time, like an incessant kid begging for your attention, never letting you feel it safe to leave them unattended for even a short time. That's just what a car is naturally wont to do. Yes, you'll need to wring out the naturally aspirated 1.5L SkyActiv engine to get it to do anything, which means you'll need to be very busy with the shortly geared 6 speed manual that's the only gearbox offered on the S. That's just what engines are naturally like without turbos and hybrids mucking them up, and there's no better way to control the coupling of gears and flywheels than with a mechanical 6 speed. Do you want to shift it quickly? Do you want the ride to be comfortable instead? Eco mode? Race mode? Launch mode? Drift mode? It's all done with three pedals and a stick rather than through menus with buttons, allowing you to mix and match any mode to any degree that suits any situation on the fly, all without the car ever letting your attention waver from the act of driving it. This, to me, is what driving is about. You pay attention to the car and you control the car, nothing else! To spec a Roadster with an automatic gearbox then, would be akin to listening to a clean version of an Eminem song. Yes, it can still be enjoyable, but such a core, defining part of the experience is taken away to create what is objectively an inferior product! It just feels like such an insult to both the engineers and the customers in the name of sales!


More than anything, a Roadster is a stark reminder of where I stand in the skill department. I mean, yes, of course I get my fat behind served to me on a silver platter by Vic every week, but none of it ever feels as crushing and demoralising as when he does it in a Roadster. There are always excuses, like "eh I suck at driving high downforce cars", "the car doesn't suit my driving style", "I don't understand the stupid way the car is set up" "this gimmicky feature that can't be turned off is stupid and I wish it wasn't here screwing with me", "I feel more with a wheel and I thus worry more when driving", "EU copies of the game are erroneously coded to be faster than Asian and American copies of the game", and so on. With something as blisteringly simplistic as a Roadster, and with how much emphasis it puts on raw driving skills and precision in turn, seeing Vic pull a half second gap on me in one corner is C R U S H I N G . It makes me angry at myself. It makes me frustrated. It makes me frantically question where I went wrong in that last corner. Did I brake too early? Should I slide the car more or less? Did I use the right gear? What sort of a monster line is he drawing that I'm not? It draws out a competitive side of me I don't much like because it does me no good. It makes me beat myself up. As much as I complain about and critique cars, I'm worse on people, especially myself. It's why writing car reviews is a cathartic release for me, because I get to piss and moan about an unfeeling machine with objective facts and don't have to fear hurting anyone... aside from myself when I get too competitive, hence why I quit Sport Mode.

But, that resurgence of my competitive side did at least allow me to race wheel to wheel with Vic for a victory, which is something I felt I hadn't managed to do as much as I'd like to, as much as I know I can. And this week with the Roadster, I didn't even need Bathurst or a wildcard car to do it!




Yes, the Roadster will make you hemorrhage time with even the tiniest of mistakes, and seeing someone pull on you in equal machinery because of that is heart wrenching. But I definitely found myself in a sort of zone, a trance of some kind, when I got familiar with its tendencies at its limits and used to accommodating for its weaknesses and pitfalls in my driving, allowing me to push it hard. And in that state, having wheel to wheel fights and inappropriately rubbing the coating of my gorgeous Soul Red Premium Metallic paint on my friends in a hard fought, but fair and respectful battle was simply exhilarating without ever feeling overwhelming. In no other car did watching the time gap delta slowly come down to the car in front feel as deserving and fulfilling as it did in the ND. And not once did I ever feel like the car was ever going to betray me, or lash out in an unexpected fashion once I got into its groove. It is an incredible joy to do battle in a steed as loyal and fair as the Roadster.


The thing about the Roadster is that you can't treat it as a tool, a means to an end, like you could a racecar. It isn't going to simply give you what you want the moment you ask for it with no drama. It's a dance partner. One you have to respect, get to know, and accommodate. It may be a cheap, barebones car. It may not vector torque for you, it might not remind you to keep both hands on the wheel, and it certainly won't monitor your body's physical condition to detect when you're drowsy and need a break from driving. But, in their place, the Roadster has the single best safety feature to ever be equipped to a car: the driver's respect and fear. It can never be taken for granted. It will make you more attentive a driver, and I would go as far as to argue that, over time, it will make you a faster and safer driver as well. How much you manage to take away from your time in a Roadster then, I think largely depends on how much you're willing to put into it. It is an excellent mirror that forces you to take a long, hard, and perhaps uncomfortable look at yourself, and what you see when that happens is entirely up to you as a driver, as a person.


And it's why my time with the ND Roadster this week has been a very bittersweet one. It's... complex. I thought I'd come in raving about how the ND Roadster is among the best cars on sale today, how Mazda is the single best car company, how I'll sprout useless trivia and facts, and hyperbole like how I'd be willing to fight anyone who disagrees. But instead, I've come to respect and fear the Roadster a lot more instead, and direct critique towards myself rather than at the car for shortcomings. Is it a good car? Would I recommend it? I can't tell. If an FD RX-7 can be likened to having a strong expresso shot, then the Roadster is preferring one's coffee without milk, sugar, or ice. Maybe even without water. It can be stupidly intense. It's not for everybody. Those looking for an outright track toy would be better served in an 86 or a... oh I dunno, a 911 GT3. But for those who can glean value from its very niche and harsh offerings, there is nothing else that can offer what the Roadster can without the sugarcoating of critique, and the resultant clarity of which that is sought after by those select few. Trust me, I never thought I'd be saying that about the car that has a Guinness World Record for being the best selling two seat open top sports car.

To see just how closely the ND Roadster went back to its roots, I drove the genesis of the Roadster, a stock 1989 NA, during race day on Goodwood. It didn't take long at all for me to realise just how little has changed in the quarter of a century that separates those cars! Aside from my very pronounced acceleration deficit, everything that the ND Roadster demanded of me, every single thing it made me avoid doing and encouraged me to do, the NA did as well. It's still freakishly soft. It still demands you rev the crap out of the small, naturally aspirated engine. It similarly doesn't have a locking diff, and it sure as hell wouldn't save you if you muck something up either. It even gets into the exact same troubles in the exact same ways as the ND after all these years! Power understeer? One tyre fires? One wheel into the grass? Off you go! In fact, aside from having one less forward cog and being slower on a straight, the only real difference I can tell between the two cars with regards to how they drive is that the older car is a lot narrower with a shorter wheelbase, which makes maneuvering through tight quarters like "The Chicane" of Goodwood slightly easier. That's it.

Driving both the NA and ND Roadsters, especially after all the supercar and racecar shenanigans week after week, almost feels like reuniting with a high school crush after a long time. I'm shocked by how little she's changed over the years despite us being well into our adulthoods by now, but at the same time, I also can't help but to relish in the opportunity to pare myself back to a simpler time and be a simpler me. Kick up a playful, harmless fuss and have fun at it, who cares? What's the worst that can happen? Despite all that coffee, fangs, and intensity talk earlier, the Roadster has a flipside that draws out a person's inner child when it's not being taken seriously. She's still the same cheerful, fun to be around, pretty girl after all these years. In fact, the only thing about her that's changed is that she's in grown up clothes now, and hot damn does she know how to pull them off! It makes me highly respect and value it for not being swept away by having to impress others and chasing numbers, because I know first hand just how difficult that is, being the odd kid out in school who always just wanted to fit in and belong. Many may complain that the Roadster lacks power, but that blistering confidence in itself, and the joys it can bring to everyone around it, is its own brand of strength in my eyes.


Tanaka Shunji's NA Roadster is painted in his favourite colour, purple, with matching purple leather seats. But, to most eyes in most situations, the purple is so dark that it wouldn't appear as anything other than black. Only when the light hits just right will the purple reveal its true colour, so to speak. Just like a Nou Mask that Tanaka–san cites to have inspired his car design, a non living surface somehow has to convey several different expressions and emotions without ever changing its form, instead relying on different lighting to portray different emotions. Either by design or by sheer coincidence, that is such a strangely apropos way to look at a Roadster as well: to most people in most normal situations, it's just a cheap, cheerful, peppy, and perhaps beautiful car. But when one tries to coax every m/s from the car through a bend, to use every millimetre of the road, and to shave off every millisecond of a stopwatch, that's when a Roadster will show its true colours.


I think a lot of us car enthusiasts prefer the older models of a lineage of cars. The NA NSXes, the A80 Supra, or the front engined Corvettes for example. We scream and write up a storm of drama and expletives to bemoan their loss and to put down their successors, so much so that sometimes I think we forget that there's a car that hasn't changed at all in all the important areas, and has made pronounced strides forward in all the right areas while preserving its identity. It's easy to forget because that car is so easy to take for granted, because it never went away, and hopefully never will. I think it's unfair and unhealthy to not celebrate these small victories we have, and gush about the things that the automotive industry got right, so here's me gushing.

In fact, while I'm at it, I'll even gush about another person! Itou Azusa!



Sorry, the video is only in Japanese with no subtitles at the moment.

Itou-san is an automotive writer and illustrator, who occasionally presents car reviews for the CARPRIME channels. When she started her job as an automotive journalist in 2015, the ND Roadster had just premiered in Japan. Despite never having driven anything out of the ordinary, she decided to take up driving the company's Roadster to learn more about the job and gain some insight and perspective. She wound up liking the car so much that she bought her own ND Roadster—in NR-A spec! Sporting height adjustable Bilstein dampers, larger diameter brake rotors, a reinforced driveshaft, and a limited slip differential all as standard, the NR-A is the pared back, hardcore, motorsport base model made for easy track use, which the roll cage equipped, fanged car of Itou-san clearly sees, wearing the Roadster Endurance's mandated Bridgestone Adrenalin RE004 tyres, swapped out bucket seats, ENDLESS brake calipers, stone chips, and track day inspection stickers on her car's body. That's right: she partakes in endurance races with her own daily! How cool is that?! Here in Singapore it's hard enough to find anyone who drives stick, urgh! Driving the base Roadster, the S, in Gran Turismo Sport and being so disgusted by its softness, I really do wonder if the NR-A with its Bilstein Dampers feels any stiffer on the track.

With the Roadster being such an integral part of her life both personally and professionally, she says that they have become part of her life, and that she'd be utterly lost without her Roadsters, not being able to do her job nor have fun in her off time. She even went as far as to say that if her future husband is against her driving them, she'd probably divorce him! Yet, despite all those harsh statements, she's so cutely embarrassed to be presenting her own car, saying it's impossible to critique the car fairly. Even simple things like saying "the shift from 1st to 2nd feels so good", feels as ridiculous as saying "air and water are delicious!" It's such a given in life that it feels asinine to point out. She then goes on a perhaps too personal ramble about how her car and her interactions with it has become more than woman and machine, to be something more akin to friends, lovers, family, or something else in similar vein.

I feel like I know that feeling of going on way too personal tangents when "reviewing" cars too.

I think I'm in love.
 
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Remember when I said that I had the perfect car in mind to close out 2021 with? The car I had in mind was the fourth generation Mazda Roadster, the ND. You see, the Chief Designer of the original NA Roadster, Tanaka Shunji, has sadly passed away on the 12th of December last year, at the age of 75. Now, I'm not going to be the sort of person that pretends to know the guy before the news of their passing, but it still strikes me as a sad loss nonetheless. For what it's worth, this week here at our humble club is dedicated to you, Tanaka–sama.


At a glance, there isn't much else left to be said for the Mazda Roadster that isn't already common knowledge. Having changed so little in its recipe since its inception in 1989, anyone who's ever been around cars know what the instant classic is, what it represents, the things it can make a driver feel, and of course, the things it can't. Low powered, lightweight, often cramped, simplistic, front engine, rear wheel drive, with some of the best ergonomics in the industry with regards to steering feel, stick shift feel, and seating position in the world that would make even the most cynical and jaded of automotive journalists chuckle during a drive. Its low cost of entry, mechanical simplicity, impeccable balance, and the resulting delightful neutrality all make the Roadster a common entry point into more spirited driving, from sanctioned cup car events, insane aftermarket builds, and even the stupid idiot with more money and unfounded confidence than experience in a RWD platform. Trust me, I know this fact far better than I'd like. It's the reason why it was nigh impossible for a time to book a test drive of a Mazda Roadster here in Singapore, and I still have the right side mirror of an NC that punched a hole into the fence of a compound I was "working" security at, which had to be patched up with concertina wire... in the still pouring rain... by me and a few others after our shift.


I know the opening two paragraphs of this review have been ultra bummers. But I think it's an important reminder that, in spite of its cute and unassuming looks, the barebones Roadster is certainly capable of a belying amount of bite, and certainly will not hesitate to lash out if mistreated. It IS a car renowned for being a great car to learn driving techniques in, after all, so one can't really expect it to be nearly as proactive in nannying a dumb driver and hiding their mistakes from them as something more mainstream and expensive, can it? That I think is part of what makes a Roadster such a darling of a car to drive in a spirited manner, and also such an excruciating rarity in today's market, but that sadly means that such stories of stupid wrecks from first timers is often associated with the car.

Completely unrelated person in the photo, don't mind her.

Not that I consider myself new or inexperienced in the context of the game, but even I became much more acquainted with the bite of the ND Roadster S during race day... as did Vic, whom I transformed from "Victorious" to "Victimised" when I crashed into him in our race at Miyabi. So then, I've learned that the ND Roadster has an indiscriminating appetite for murder, regardless of experience. But what is it that makes it so... hungry for souls? (Yes I'm struggling to write this piece in case you couldn't already tell from the delay in publishing it and the whack analogies.)


Well, the single lightest trim of the ND Roadster, the "S", can't even be optioned with a locking differential. Depending on if you're a glass half full or empty person, you can argue that that's for mass savings to allow the S to be the only trim of the popular fourth generation sports car to weigh in back under the magic tonne for the first time since the original NA generation, or simply being cheap. Whatever the case, the open differential of the Roadster S very quickly becomes apparent when the softly sprung car is being driven hard, struggling to cleanly put down even the meager 128HP (95.4kW) that it packs if the car is too off neutral, easily costing momentum out of a corner while forcing drivers to partially lift, lest they risk the entire car snapping once the spinning inside wheel hooks up like a secondary flywheel you've little control over.


Mazda may flaunt "Jinba–Ittai", "Horse and Rider as One", as its tagline, and perhaps no other car in the company's lineup is poised to embody that sentiment as much as its flagship Roadster, the only RWD model the company offers until the rumours of a new Inline 6 RWD Atenza materialise. However, when I drive the ND Roadster in the game, my experience couldn't be much more at odds with that saying. Instead of the car going and behaving exactly as I intuit it, I find that it's disgustingly soft as a sports car—no matter how crappy a set of tyres I fit on it, the car unabashedly pitches, rolls, and yaws as though stretching its suspension for a warm up. The "S" in "Roadster S" could almost stand for "sloppy". I mean, here, take a look at the car as I accidentally slid it on Turn 10 of Laguna Seca on its default Sport Hard tyres.


You can't tell me this amount of body movement looks at all healthy or conducive for anything. Even with what should be ample ground clearance of 140mm (5.51in), the car is almost bottoming out, and I'm almost certain that the wheels should be scraping the flared arches by now had such been simulated in GTS.


The front springs in particular are so disgustingly flimsy that it makes the RWD car with less power than an FF Honda Fit Hybrid understeer more than said FF Honda Fit Hybrid, and that's not even the most atrocious part! If you fit downgraded Comfort tyres in attempt to make the softly sprung car feel more natural to drive, weight takes so long to slosh over the front tyres when you slam the brakes for a corner that it makes the ABS freak the hell out and think the car has way less grip than it will eventually have. Seriously, you've to brake so early for corners because the 990kg (2,183lbs) Roadster stops so badly, one would think an intern at Mazda neglected to print the first digit in its mass figure—its stopping distances are more akin to a car weighing 1,990kg wearing its Yokohama ADVAN Sport V105 195/50R16 tyres. Turn off ABS, and not only does the car stop much better, but the tyres and steering wheel become more communicative simply because the front tyres are actually being, you know, utilised. I know this issue isn't very prominent on the Sport Hard tyres the car comes with by default, but I'm almost certain the car isn't supposed to come with such grippy tyres, since GTS does have a habit of defaulting every production car with them, causing many of them to feel overly grippy and thrown for a loop. Back in earlier Gran Turismo titles, Roadsters have always come default with Comfort tyres, which makes you work harder for lap times and highlight the car's natural tendencies more.


Whichever tyre compound you fit on the Roadster, grippy or grotesque, the Roadster Sloppy is so soft that the rear end of the car becomes as eager and integral to the turning experience as the front end, which incidentally is the only end of the car that the steering wheel is connected to, in case that needed spelling out. The rear end of the car will peek and swing out as though you're Scandi Flicking it if you're too rough with your steering wheel, setting it up for a drift that the car hasn't the power or the locking differential to hold. The rear end of the car sways so much under hard lateral loads that, if you were to, say, attempt to use every millimetre of a track in a pylon course, you'd be smacking the pylons with the rear fenders of the car more often than the front, which is like... oh I don't know. I don't even have a funny quip for that; it's just tragic.


That in itself would've made the car dangerous enough, but couple that with the embarrassing single–point tyre contact physics of this "Real Driving Simulator", and you have in your hands and under your feet an express, non stop bathtub to hell, via rumble strips, uneven road surfaces, or just good old fashioned grass, the last of which caught me out at Miyabi when I pulled the car to the left for "Turn" 2, a flat out left kink. I was using every millimetre of the track on the rightmost edge when I turned too hard, causing the rear end to sway into the grass, causing the crash.

So in conclusion, it's soft and imprecise like a slinky. It's prone to snap oversteering. It understeers like hell on corner entry and exit. It's absurdly dangerous to drive quickly on any tyre compound. Am I dreaming? Or am I going insane?


I think that I might have been spoiled silly by all the faster, louder cars in the game. It's hard not to when the game forces GT500s, LMP1s, or at the very least, a pedestrian 911 GT3 RS on you every now and then. Standards are stupidly high in a digital fantasy that is this game and the life it lends us. Everything is loud, quick, precise, stiff, grippy, hardcore, and built with a larger budget. But what those cars never really offer, or at least highlight to me as much, is the natural tendencies of a chassis suspended above four wheels, and the blistering purity of it. Yes, it pitches, rolls, and yaws all the time, like an incessant kid begging for your attention, never letting you feel it safe to leave them unattended for even a short time. That's just what a car is naturally wont to do. Yes, you'll need to wring out the naturally aspirated 1.5L SkyActiv engine to get it to do anything, which means you'll need to be very busy with the shortly geared 6 speed manual that's the only gearbox offered on the S. That's just what engines are naturally like without turbos and hybrids mucking them up, and there's no better way to control the coupling of gears and flywheels than with a mechanical 6 speed. Do you want to shift it quickly? Do you want the ride to be comfortable instead? Eco mode? Race mode? Launch mode? Drift mode? It's all done with three pedals and a stick rather than through menus with buttons, allowing you to mix and match any mode to any degree that suits any situation on the fly, all without the car ever letting your attention waver from the act of driving it. This, to me, is what driving is about. You pay attention to the car and you control the car, nothing else! To spec a Roadster with an automatic gearbox then, would be akin to listening to a clean version of an Eminem song. Yes, it can still be enjoyable, but such a core, defining part of the experience is taken away to create what is objectively an inferior product! It just feels like such an insult to both the engineers and the customers in the name of sales!


More than anything, a Roadster is a stark reminder of where I stand in the skill department. I mean, yes, of course I get my fat behind served to me on a silver platter by Vic every week, but none of it ever feels as crushing and demoralising as when he does it in a Roadster. There are always excuses, like "eh I suck at driving high downforce cars", "the car doesn't suit my driving style", "I don't understand the stupid way the car is set up" "this gimmicky feature that can't be turned off is stupid and I wish it wasn't here screwing with me", "I feel more with a wheel and I thus worry more when driving", "EU copies of the game are erroneously coded to be faster than Asian and American copies of the game", and so on. With something as blisteringly simplistic as a Roadster, and with how much emphasis it puts on raw driving skills and precision in turn, seeing Vic pull a half second gap on me in one corner is C R U S H I N G . It makes me angry at myself. It makes me frustrated. It makes me frantically question where I went wrong in that last corner. Did I brake too early? Should I slide the car more or less? Did I use the right gear? What sort of a monster line is he drawing that I'm not? It draws out a competitive side of me I don't much like because it does me no good. It makes me beat myself up. As much as I complain about and critique cars, I'm worse on people, especially myself. It's why writing car reviews is a cathartic release for me, because I get to piss and moan about an unfeeling machine with objective facts and don't have to fear hurting anyone... aside from myself when I get too competitive, hence why I quit Sport Mode.

But, that resurgence of my competitive side did at least allow me to race wheel to wheel with Vic for a victory, which is something I felt I hadn't managed to do as much as I'd like to, as much as I know I can. And this week with the Roadster, I didn't even need Bathurst or a wildcard car to do it!




Yes, the Roadster will make you hemorrhage time with even the tiniest of mistakes, and seeing someone pull on you in equal machinery because of that is heart wrenching. But I definitely found myself in a sort of zone, a trance of some kind, when I got familiar with its tendencies at its limits and used to accommodating for its weaknesses and pitfalls in my driving, allowing me to push it hard. And in that state, having wheel to wheel fights and inappropriately rubbing the coating of my gorgeous Soul Red Premium Metallic paint on my friends in a hard fought, but fair and respectful battle was simply exhilarating without ever feeling overwhelming. In no other car did watching the time gap delta slowly come down to the car in front feel as deserving and fulfilling as it did in the ND. And not once did I ever feel like the car was ever going to betray me, or lash out in an unexpected fashion once I got into its groove. It is an incredible joy to do battle in a steed as loyal and fair as the Roadster.


The thing about the Roadster is that you can't treat it as a tool, a means to an end, like you could a racecar. It isn't going to simply give you what you want the moment you ask for it with no drama. It's a dance partner. One you have to respect, get to know, and accommodate. It may be a cheap, barebones car. It may not vector torque for you, it might not remind you to keep both hands on the wheel, and it certainly won't monitor your body's physical condition to detect when you're drowsy and need a break from driving. But, in their place, the Roadster has the single best safety feature to ever be equipped to a car: the driver's respect and fear. It can never be taken for granted. It will make you more attentive a driver, and I would go as far as to argue that, over time, it will make you a faster and safer driver as well. How much you manage to take away from your time in a Roadster then, I think largely depends on how much you're willing to put into it. It is an excellent mirror that forces you to take a long, hard, and perhaps uncomfortable look at yourself, and what you see when that happens is entirely up to you as a driver, as a person.


And it's why my time with the ND Roadster this week has been a very bittersweet one. It's... complex. I thought I'd come in raving about how the ND Roadster is among the best cars on sale today, how Mazda is the single best car company, how I'll sprout useless trivia and facts, and hyperbole like how I'd be willing to fight anyone who disagrees. But instead, I've come to respect and fear the Roadster a lot more instead, and direct critique towards myself rather than at the car for shortcomings. Is it a good car? Would I recommend it? I can't tell. If an FD RX-7 can be likened to having a strong expresso shot, then the Roadster is preferring one's coffee without milk, sugar, or ice. Maybe even without water. It can be stupidly intense. It's not for everybody. Those looking for an outright track toy would be better served in an 86 or a... oh I dunno, a 911 GT3. But for those who can glean value from its very niche and harsh offerings, there is nothing else that can offer what the Roadster can without the sugarcoating of critique, and the resultant clarity of which that is sought after by those select few. Trust me, I never thought I'd be saying that about the car that has a Guinness World Record for being the best selling two seat open top sports car.

To see just how closely the ND Roadster went back to its roots, I drove the genesis of the Roadster, a stock 1989 NA, during race day on Goodwood. It didn't take long at all for me to realise just how little has changed in the quarter of a century that separates those cars! Aside from my very pronounced acceleration deficit, everything that the ND Roadster demanded of me, every single thing it made me avoid doing and encouraged me to do, the NA did as well. It's still freakishly soft. It still demands you rev the crap out of the small, naturally aspirated engine. It similarly doesn't have a locking diff, and it sure as hell wouldn't save you if you muck something up either. It even gets into the exact same troubles in the exact same ways as the ND after all these years! Power understeer? One tyre fires? One wheel into the grass? Off you go! In fact, aside from having one less forward cog and being slower on a straight, the only real difference I can tell between the two cars with regards to how they drive is that the older car is a lot narrower with a shorter wheelbase, which makes maneuvering through tight quarters like "The Chicane" of Goodwood slightly easier. That's it.

Driving both the NA and ND Roadsters, especially after all the supercar and racecar shenanigans week after week, almost feels like reuniting with a high school crush after a long time. I'm shocked by how little she's changed over the years despite us being well into our adulthoods by now, but at the same time, I also can't help but to relish in the opportunity to pare myself back to a simpler time and be a simpler me. Kick up a playful, harmless fuss and have fun at it, who cares? What's the worst that can happen? Despite all that coffee, fangs, and intensity talk earlier, the Roadster has a flipside that draws out a person's inner child when it's not being taken seriously. She's still the same cheerful, fun to be around, pretty girl after all these years. In fact, the only thing about her that's changed is that she's in grown up clothes now, and hot damn does she know how to pull them off! It makes me highly respect and value it for not being swept away by having to impress others and chasing numbers, because I know first hand just how difficult that is, being the odd kid out in school who always just wanted to fit in and belong. Many may complain that the Roadster lacks power, but that blistering confidence in itself, and the joys it can bring to everyone around it, is its own brand of strength in my eyes.


Tanaka Shunji's NA Roadster is painted in his favourite colour, purple, with matching purple leather seats. But, to most eyes in most situations, the purple is so dark that it wouldn't appear as anything other than black. Only when the light hits just right will the purple reveal its true colour, so to speak. Just like a Nou Mask that Tanaka–san cites to have inspired his car design, a non living surface somehow has to convey several different expressions and emotions without ever changing its form, instead relying on different lighting to portray different emotions. Either by design or by sheer coincidence, that is such a strangely apropos way to look at a Roadster as well: to most people in most normal situations, it's just a cheap, cheerful, peppy, and perhaps beautiful car. But when one tries to coax every m/s from the car through a bend, to use every millimetre of the road, and to shave off every millisecond of a stopwatch, that's when a Roadster will show its true colours.


I think a lot of us car enthusiasts prefer the older models of a lineage of cars. The NA NSXes, the A80 Supra, or the front engined Corvettes for example. We scream and write up a storm of drama and expletives to bemoan their loss and to put down their successors, so much so that sometimes I think we forget that there's a car that hasn't changed at all in all the important areas, and has made pronounced strides forward in all the right areas while preserving its identity. It's easy to forget because that car is so easy to take for granted, because it never went away, and hopefully never will. I think it's unfair and unhealthy to not celebrate these small victories we have, and gush about the things that the automotive industry got right, so here's me gushing.

In fact, while I'm at it, I'll even gush about another person! Itou Azusa!



Sorry, the video is only in Japanese with no subtitles at the moment.

Itou-san is an automotive writer and illustrator, who occasionally presents car reviews for the CARPRIME channels. When she started her job as an automotive journalist in 2015, the ND Roadster had just premiered in Japan. Despite never having driven anything out of the ordinary, she decided to take up driving the company's Roadster to learn more about the job and gain some insight and perspective. She wound up liking the car so much that she bought her own ND Roadster—in NR-A spec! Sporting height adjustable Bilstein dampers, larger diameter brake rotors, a reinforced driveshaft, and a limited slip differential all as standard, the NR-A is the pared back, hardcore, motorsport base model made for easy track use, which the roll cage equipped, fanged car of Itou-san clearly sees, wearing the Roadster Endurance's mandated Bridgestone Adrenalin RE004 tyres, swapped out bucket seats, ENDLESS brake calipers, stone chips, and track day inspection stickers on her car's body. That's right: she partakes in endurance races with her own daily! How cool is that?! Here in Singapore it's hard enough to find anyone who drives stick, urgh! Driving the base Roadster, the S, in Gran Turismo Sport and being so disgusted by its softness, I really do wonder if the NR-A with its Bilstein Dampers feels any stiffer on the track.

With the Roadster being such an integral part of her life both personally and professionally, she says that they have become part of her life, and that she'd be utterly lost without her Roadsters, not being able to do her job nor have fun in her off time. She even went as far as to say that if her future husband is against her driving them, she'd probably divorce him! Yet, despite all those harsh statements, she's so cutely embarrassed to be presenting her own car, saying it's impossible to critique the car fairly. Even simple things like saying "the shift from 1st to 2nd feels so good", feels as ridiculous as saying "air and water are delicious!" It's such a given in life that it feels asinine to point out. She then goes on a perhaps too personal ramble about how her car and her interactions with it has become more than woman and machine, to be something more akin to friends, lovers, family, or something else in similar vein.

I feel like I know that feeling of going on way too personal tangents when "reviewing" cars too.

I think I'm in love.

Always love your images. Very fitting. Great review. :)
 
A tale of too A 2 B's (part 1)


I set down my coffee, fold up the Wall Street Journal and look back at the utterly blank computer screen in front of me. My phone has been vibrating constantly the past 5 minutes, and has almost shook itself right off my newly constructed work bench that still smells of fresh-sawn pine 2x4's and 3/4" birch ply. 3 alerts from Vic, 2 alerts from Racer, 5 from Alex P, 3 from Pickle_Rick, a smiley face emoji from Square....and even a reply from ever elusive, but always lurking Esther.

When I got my recruitment email from Racer asking me to join the exclusive COTW testing cadre, I remember feeling a sense of pride that all the years I've spent riding reviews in Enduro Racer magazine had finally paid off. Someone has finally taken notice and I'm now officially in the big leagues. No more long drives in Mr. Van galavanting all over California, shaking hands with manufactures, fending off not so subtle attempts of bribes from Suzuki for me to finally write a favorable review for their bikes, no more crappy fast-food, no more cold nights in the High Desert camping out to get the perfect sunrise picture of whatever project bike I was testing. Sure, I'm still going to ride and race dirt bikes. Next to surfing, motorcycles are one of deepest passions despite the toll its taken on my body and pocketbook over the years. But at least now I just get to ride and race. No more testing, no more photos, no more hustling.

They say; "with age comes a cage". Although I didn't really believe that in my 20's and early 30's, I'm starting to see what the old timers meant now that I'm approaching 40 and have a body that's worn out at least 20 years ahead of my numerical age. Of course, being a fireman from the age of 20 didn't help either - starting as a smoke jumper, and now as a sleep-deprived zombie that proudly serves the citizens of South Central Los Angeles. Even though I've always ridden dirt bikes, racing cars is a quite recent foray of mine. Sure, I've always been an enthusiast. I mean, who doesn't love a Ferrari, a classic Z...or a fire breathing, pavement shaking 700 horsepower muscle car. Well actually, I can think of one person who will never get the latter.

Upon receiving my welcome letter from Esther, I was taken back by the fact that she actually took the time to compose, print, personally sign, fold, package, stamp, and actually send off a letter. It was almost eery that at this day in age, a MILLENIAL of all people, would actually take the time and perform such an outdated, and tedious task of mailing someone anything. Especially when that specific generation is "so concerned" with the image of being carbon neutral. That piece of paper had to be harvested from some tree, in some village, by some 8 year old boy, who had to navigate a jungle filled with reticulated pythons and tigers across the pond in Malaysia. Then overnighted on a Fed-Ex flight from Singapore to San Diego International airport, where I most likely watched that plane fly in overhead while getting crop-dusted by JP4 as I surfed "Avalanches" in OB. Then said letter was ferried off to the post office by an 8mpg Postal Service truck that would have been decommissioned 2 years ago hadn't this "pandemic" taken place... but with the microchip shortage and the ensuing skyrocket costs of new vehicles, combined with the exorbitant production costs of "green" vehicles....you get the point. Then from THERE... a union postal worker making $45 an hour jumped in his jeep and delivered an immaculately packaged and composed letter to a redneck living in a neighborhood he doesn't belong in, whom is putting the first heat cycle through a freshly rebuilt KTM 250 2 stroke that is puking blue smoke because he insists on slathering all new engine parts with castor bean oil when reassembling a motor (cause' that's how his dad taught him to do it), while a 3/4 pound porterhouse sizzles on the grill next to him.

I mean sure, an aging Gen-Xer like me appreciates the little tokens of professionalism that harps back to simpler times, and being a conservative and all.... I'm all for the jobs, free market capitalism and everything (yet ironically also pro-union). But even I'll admit this was a bit of a waste. Especially when a simple email would have sufficed, and probably played more to her reputation of being a bit cold and not the most personable individual. In Esther's welcome letter was a lot of corporate-speak; "we're ecstatic to add some diversity to the company....blah, blah, blah". But if you read between the lines, the gist of it was she tasked Racer with finding some outside the box, new talent that was somewhat mechanically inclined, had a flexible schedule, cheap, and appealed to the.... how should we say.... blue collar, red state crowd. Did I forget to mention CHEAP. Yeah, that's the main reason the recruited me.


.....Clearly I'm stalling because I don't know what to write about this car.

I mean, what do you write about a car that has one purpose only? To get its occupants from A to B in the most safe and economical way possible. It literally has no other purpose than that. Of course, I'm talking about...



THE MAZDA DEMIO


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Why is this car even here? Why are we even testing it in a "race" setting? Asking me to test the performance attributes of this very vanilla commuter is like asking me to test the offroad worthiness of a Suzuki Vstrom at the SCORE Baja 1000. I mean come on!? What is this?.... some Polyphony geek developer's first car??

You know what my first car was??? A 1993 Chevy Astrovan. You know what car I want to test for my inaugural COTW review let alone EVER in Gran Turismo?? Not a 1993 Chevy-friggin' Astrovan!!



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So since there's literally nothing performance-related to say about the Mazda Demio, lets talk about Mazda as company... and how Mazda looks through the eyes of a beady-eye'd American. In the fire department, we make fun of the Alpha Male stations that puff their chests out due to the fires said station used to go on 25 years ago. We call it "living on reputation's past". THAT'S EXACTLY what could be said about Mazda. Mazda has exactly 2 claims to fame when it comes to performance cars, and one of them was purely a race car in the 787B.



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The other, is a JDM fanboy's wet dream (and if I'm being fair, a pending classic), the 1992-2002 Mazda RX7. Might I add that the only reason this car gets a second look from us round eyes in the states, is because Dominic Teretto drove one in the Fast and Furious. If this was one of Japan's best "attainable" performance cars from the 90's.... then no wonder they lost the war. Put it toe to toe with any Corvette from that era, and the ensuing result would be a blood bath of burnt oil and Wankel rotors reduced to shrapnel that would make Hiroshima look like a WWII era practice bomb target in the Mojave desert.




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Fun fact! I actually race dirt bikes where this is. Lucerne Valley, Ca




I mean, I'm sorry XSquareStickIt.... I love the high pitch shriek of a Wankel motor as much as the next gear head. But from a performance point of view, pound for pound, its not even close.


Back to Mazda. So we've already established that their only performance-related claims to fame died exactly 20 years ago, so lets talk about the rest of their quite frankly, underwhelming line of vehicles. Mazda has never been the "destination' company for car enthusiasts and commuters alike. I would akin Mazda to more of rest stop along the way to the destination. Or as I'll elaborate later in this review, a Mazda in your driveway can be either a key launching off point in your journey through life, or the unfortunate "inevitability" of what your life has become.

No one, and I mean NO ONE, picks a Mazda vehicle as their first choice. No 15 year old pimple-faced-rice-rocket-JDM-fanboy-wannabe looks at a car magazine, lusting after all the exotic builds and says; "yep, an Atenza is where I need to be". No soccer mom pictures herself ferrying her kids off to practice in a CX-5 or CX-7. No, she wishes her husband made enough money to buy her a Volvo, a BMW, a Porsche Cayenne, or lets face it... even a KIA Telluride. And the SAME goes for the wide range of people that are unfortunate enough to call a Mazda Demio (aka, Scion iA, Toyota Yaris) their own. Those poor souls probably wished it was a hatchback civic, a Subaru Forrester, or a Tesla in their driveway.


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But clearly someone ends up with this car, and all its various stateside reincarnations. But exactly who ends up with this car? As a freeway commuter, the roads are rife with numerous used examples of this car in various stages of abuse and decay. There's a TON of them out there!! More often than not, they have various door dents and quater panel scrapes and are adorned with a rear window full of stickers that varies from the hescher 9 inch nails crowd, the Molly-fueled EDM crowd, to the granola Green Peace crowd. You'll also find a lot of Demio examples that have stickers of other countries flags, because we are after all, a nation of immigrants.

It goes without saying though, that someone has to purchase these cars new in order for them to become used, right? So who exactly is perusing the consumer reports looking for a commuter and somehow lands on a Mazda Demio? I know exactly who actually.... car rental companies. I'm all but positive that the thousands of car rental companies in the world buy these vehicles up by the Cargo ship. How do I know this you ask??? Because every forken' time I go to rent a car, I end up with one!

But that doesn't quite explain all of them on the road now does it? Granted, a car rental company will use and discard a vehicle in the matter of 2 years... similar to how Amazon uses Ford transit vans. But there's some people that buy these new off the lot, surely. I'm living proof of that.



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So once again, who EXACTLY buys one of these fresh off the lot as their personal vehicle?

3 types:
  • Grand parents that have a little bit of money
  • The head of the household of a first generation immigrant family
  • And a misty-eyed middle-aged father, sending his daughter off to college


The first one is easy. They're the grand parents who are probably 15-20 years into retirement, have traveled the lower 48 a couple times coast to coast in a 27' Class C winnebago. They both are living well within their means and have enough money to siphon from their union pension to buy their unsuspecting grandson or grand daughter their first car at the age of 18 (because Zennial's are lazy AF, and can't even be bothered these days to pursue their right to get behind the wheel, and take that first liberating breath of freedom that only someone who just passed their drivers test 30 minutes ago can explain when they go out on their first drive by themselves). "Pop" and "Meema" probably drove down from Tehachapi themselves to deliver the car to the poor kid's high school complete with a red bow, and thus unknowingly subjected the young adult to an agonizing couple years of ridicule. They probably splurged the extra $200 for the "sporty" black rims too. And as they hand the Keyes to an embarrassed never gonna get laid now grandson, they sense the tension and try to lighten the blow with something that probably sounds like this:









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A middle aged man, who's still after 47 years is uncomfortable in his own skin walks as confidently as he can manage into a Mazda dealership where the awaiting vultures already sizing him up. His white New Balance 686's make a soft splashing sound as he walks across asphalt that was just drenched by a passing cell from a pop-up storm. In the side pocket of his cargo shorts, he's equipped with a pre-approval letter from Navy Federal Credit Union that he has been a part of since he was 20 after his little brother Joined up. David, a loving dad, caring husband who had always been a straight shooter - works an honest living, values loyalty and has saved every dime he could to provide for his family ...does his best to schmooze a salesman into knocking $1500 off the sticker. His cousin Eric, a cars salesman 15 years ago, told him to always go car shopping on a rainy day, preferably towards the end of the quarter when dealerships are trying to meet their quotas. However, Dave with his "world's best dad" t-shirt tucked into his Kirkland branded shorts, isn't above telling a white lie if it means getting his little girl off to college in a car that will hopefully get her through graduate school if she chooses to do so. Secretly, he hopes that she meets some rich kid at Chapman, and she decides to punch out a few kids and raise a family instead of pursuing her dream of becoming a lawyer. It'd be nice too if said Rich Kid's family picked up the tab for the wedding too. He's proud of raising an independent and strong young woman that at least has a sense of money and self-presence..... 2 characteristics that are so rare in this generation. However, David knows that if Isabella decides to pursue 8 years of college instead of the 4 he's saved for since she was born, its going to chain him to the desk of his city sanitation job for 6 more years at least. Probably till 63 or 64 now that he's doing the math. Dave wants his daughter to be successful, yes, but the books don't lie either. It'd be much cheaper if she marries and gets her own used CX-5 in like 6 years or so. Things would definitely be much easier for him and his wife Betty (and their 2 other boys who's he's trying to convince in enlisting...even though they have zero grit whatsoever, much like their old man).

He tells Mike the salesman that he's always been a Mazda fan. He loves the styling cues that stay relevant long after the next generation Mazda 6 has hit the streets. He appreciates the work the engineers at Mazda have put into creating a vehicle that far outlasts its warranty (even though his wife's own Mazda 6 has had the water pump go out twice, the engine has leaked oil like the Valdez for the past 37,000 miles and the transmission is starting to lurch.... and the pos only has 140k on the odo!). Mike, a college dropout from 'back east' - as he used to say in auditions - had decided to pursue his own dreams in Hollywood and become an old-school triple threat actor reminiscent of the 40's and 50's. He's definitely good looking enough with his dirty blonde hair and square jaw. Not to mention his singing and dancing ain't half bad either. His Achilles heel though, was his acting was only average at best. He spent his savings which he earned from his night job of bartending on Gower Street on a few acting lessons. But nothing ever seemed to pan out for him. In all honesty, he probably should have made it. His acting was finally starting to come along and he did have the makings of a star. But in the end, Mike just ended up yet another Hollywood casualty. The final nail in his acting coffin was 18 months ago when he knocked up a new go-go dancer at the bar, Patteh. He had hoped that she would just 'take care of it' (Michael was the type who was both pro choice and pro life, depending on how the circumstances affected him of course), but when the bright-eyed 24 year old girl decided this was her chance to latch on to an up and coming star with old school Hollywood looks, Patteh literally leaped at the chance to ditch her dead-end job of night dancing (she never really liked working anyways), and have a baby. 9 months later, Travis popped out as cute and as healthy as could be, and 6 months ago Mike decided to finally give up on his failing acting career and parlay his charisma and good looks into sales.

Mike being acutely preceptive, sees right through David's BS Mazda-loyalty pledge routine. If there's anyone who can spot bad acting, it's him. Besides, he knows damn well as much as Dave does.... or anyone for that matter, that NO ONE comes to a Mazda dealership because they wanted to. David's presence here, along with his, was inevitable.

He smiles and tells Dave that he'll go talk to his Manager Chad to see what they can do to '
get him into a new Demio today'. Unbeknownst to Dave, Mike is going to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to get him into a new Demio, because no one is beating down Mazda's door begging for them to sell cars, he has a very young family to raise, its the end of the quarter, and his sales have been on the low side.

Not to mention, it's raining.


An hour and a half later, Dave signs the final paperwork of the loan docs, shakes Chad's hand, and walks out of the dealership in a Demio with
19 miles on the odometer. On the way home he decides to stop at Wienerschnitzel, his daughter and his favorite fast-food joint that they used to frequent on the way home from every William S. Hart soft-ball game all those years ago. He orders "two Number 1's with a chocolate chip cookie please" through speaker, and gladly hands is $11.59 in exact to change to a young, fumbling James Wildie - who is clearly halfway through his third shift at his first job. As David hooks a right on down Brookhurst to his home and unsuspecting daughter, Isabella...he fumbles through his iPod shuffle to find a song to help choke back the tears. He's been dreaming, and dreading this day ever since Isabella emerged from her mothers womb at Henry Mayo Hospital 18 years ago.






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He lands on "Against The Wind" by Bob Segar







Alright, alright.....enough of the sentimental crap Yard_Sale. What about this stupid car you're supposed to "test"?





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Ah yes, the Mazda Demio.




Exactly, what do you write about a car that has one purpose only? To get its occupants from A to B in the most safe and economical way possible. It literally has no other purpose than that.

Its a question that I struggled with immensely as I flew back from Japan after our meet. True to form, I arrived in Tokyo late and was only able to meet the gang at Suzuka and Tokyo Express way. Honestly, the highlight of the short trip was watching XSquareStickIt start asian-glowing after only his second large Sake, and then seeing him end up all sprawled out on the seats of our subway a few hours later enroute to the accommodations Esther had arranged for us close to the airport. Alex, Pickle, Racer and myself all could handle our liquor just find, no doubt one of the very few benefits we've acquired from our collective European (and thus, alcoholic) heritage.




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Sorry square, you're gonna have to step up your game next time you party with us. Maybe drink something other than your homeland's national beer, Tiger (aka the worst beer ever).



However, upon my arrival stateside, I was able to get correspondence with Esther who had arranged for a new Demio to be delivered to my house in San Diego. She insisted that I uber the 3.5 miles to the dealership and pick it up myself, but I retorted that no one should have to waste any more time and effort than need be testing this car... plus I had door dash enroute with Chicken and waffles. Esther quickly messaged me back - this time text, that most new COTW members would be more than willing to go the extra mile to give a thorough review.... and that there are literally thousands across the world that would do backflips for the mere chance to be in my position (I don't ever remember giving her my correct personal number). I reminded her that I didn't come to them begging for a job, and I can easily just work an overtime shift tomorrow and triple my monthly compensation that COTW provides me - did I mention that I'm CHEAP and I pay my own way to test locations??

Ether, recognizing that I was only bluffing pushed through the paperwork, and I arrived from my surf session the next morning to find a shiny new Demio outside my humble home.




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I pat Palomina on the head as I walk through the side door which is really in need of a rebuild from Termite damage. I rinse the sand from my feet in my outdoor shower that pulls water from the slop sink inside my detached garage; pick a couple fresh vegetables from the garden for an omelet and start contemplating what I should do with this absolutely pitiful looking car sitting outside my house; and more importantly.... wether or not I'm gonna build my side door from Teak, or weld together a steel frame and fill it in with Trexx. Steel prices have gone through the roof lately with this pandemic, and trexx ain't cheap either.... but at least I won't ever have to rebuild this door again (ahhh, the never-ending joys of grownup responsibilities)

It doesn't take me but halfway through my omelet to decide how I'm going to build that door and what I'm going to do with this 3rd Mazda that graces my driveway. I open my laptop and bring up the National Enduro website to make sure the race schedule will coincide with my Demio test plan. I text my buddy Chester to see if I can borrow his flatbed trailer for a week or so, and lastly phone my captain and request my next 3 shifts off from work. Within 10 minutes, all my bases are covered and my plan is in motion. I figured I should shoot an email to Esther to cut her in on my plan, but I figured I'd wait and let her contact me. Therefore I could gain some leverage by embellishing how difficult it was for me to procure time off from work and develop my travel schedule to make this happen on such short notice..... plus I needed her to arrange for some track time at 3 different circuits, a new set of tires (no way these comfort softs are going to hold up to the abuse I'm about to put this car through), and about 3k miles worth of gas and expenses. No way I'm sinking anymore of my own money into this POS.

Exactly 23 minutes and 37 seconds later, I get another text - this time from a Malaysian number - and its Esther wondering if I've figured out my plan yet. Checking my watch, I realize that its just passed 2am Singapore time, So I email Esther asking what she's doing up bothering me when she should be sleeping.

2 minutes later I receive a text back with a simple reply of; "Racer is also stateside Andrew, and he's not nearly as high-maintenance as you're proving to be"

Opening a new email thread with every response (which I decide to compose my entire message in the subject line...... mainly because I know it'll annoy the hell out of someone like her), I remind Esther that none of the other COTW members had to pay $3000 for a last minute United flight direct to Tokyo. It should be noted that my sister is a flight attendant with them, and I only had to pay $350 for a first class ticket upgrade.


Surprisingly, she doesn't even flinch when I tell her that I need $1500 for travel expenses, and she even comments that "at least my thriftiness compared to Vic and Square, makes up for the headache I've caused her so far". I think of snidely responding to her again, but decide to let it go as she's probably the type of person whom everyone that's not named Esther, gets on her nerves.

3 hours later (now 5:19am Singapore time), I receive a text asking when I'm going to leave to go test. "tomorrow morning, 0400 hours 'good guys' time", I reply. 40 minutes later she texts back "let me know when you're 45 minutes away so I can phone our contact to open the gate for you..". With the 3 texting dots doing their wavy thing, a message comes across that reads "btw, learn to compose an email professionally Andrew.... you'll have to, if you plan on making it in this industry".


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I take my time getting up to Willow Springs the next morning, and arrive to the open gate just after 11:00am to be greeted by a gentleman who looked to be in his late 60's. He leads me in his Gator to the pits, and after about 20 minutes of me unloading while him and I chew the fat (turns out Roger lives at the track and in addition to running security, he also facilitates under the radar test sessions from all the big race teams and manufacturers. I ask him if anything of interest has come through recently, to which he shrugged and replied "not really anything I can legally dispel, but the Koreans seem to be making a big push". He informs me that I have the track till dusk, and just to let him know if I need anything. We shake hands and I finish suiting up.




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eeeking out every possible thousandth' from the mighty Demio!!




To be honest, I could have easily taken delivery of the Demio and done all of the additional "testing" that I needed in-and-around a track that's about 90 minutes from me down in the Low Desert. The only reason I even decided to do a three thousand mile "testing road trip", was because I had a motorcycle race in Colorado that coming weekend, and my folks live right over the hill from Willow in Bear Valley. I wanted to pop in for some dinner, give my mom a kiss, and I needed to use my Dad's TIG welder to finish up some fabrication on the door frame I was building. For all Esther knows, I'm doing this road trip purely to "test" this car at some of the circuits that the COTW crew rarely gets to congregate at. And with my paltry $1500 expense request, she probably thinks I'm staying at Motel 6 and eating at McDonalds for a week straight. No wonder she was more than eager to approve the money transfer to the company card. Little does she know that I'm towing the Demio behind my van which I'm sleeping in by the way. Rovers MC is already giving me $500 per-dium to attend the National Enduro in Colorado - NOT TO MENTION - I'll be eating Bluefin Tuna that I caught in Mexico just before I went to Tokyo, meat from the Elk that I got in New Mexico last month, and fruits and veggies from my garden. Most importantly, I never have really gotten the chance to tow anything for a distance with my Transit yet. I'm guessing I'll spend probably 600 quid for fuel round trip, so after my $1500 from COTW and my $500 from Rovers.... I'll walk away with a good chunk of change and some sort of relevant content for my first COTW review. Somebody has to read these reviews about this crappy car, and @XSquareStickIt's witty compositions are only gonna get us so far. Besides, what Esther doesn't know won't hurt her.







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As I arrive at Laguna Seca late the next morning, I still had no clue really what I was supposed to write about this car from a performance point of view. I figured I could Dukes Of Hazards' it off the top of corkscrew and test out the rigidity of the Demio's unibody construction, but that's a test that would come soon enough. Plus, I thought that maybe I would actually use the car for its intended purpose and jet over to wine country for a case of expensive Cabronet. Still, I was able to get a few pics (courtesy of my new fancy DSLR Camera!) for my editorial.


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nothing like enjoying the finer things on the COTW's dime!!




When I was surfing Sunday morning before the car got delivered, I recalled a block of time from my formative years when me and my buddies were all getting our licenses. A lot of memories will fade over the course of 20+ years, but I can still vividly remember the smell of the house paint we used to give the 86' Celica we had just found in The Recycler a new....ummm...Livery. Somehow we managed to find an abused to hell and back, but still running Toyota for only $500!! It was probably January or February or something because it was peak mud whomping season for us (look, there's not a whole lot of things for us hill-billies to do besides dirt bike riding, shootin', and muddin', once football season is over okay?). Fueled by a bunch of Mountain Dew, a few Jackass episodes and some Rally Racing in Gran Turismo (true story btw), we decided to peruse the pages of The Recycler in search of something we could thrash the living crap out of until it burst into flames. Within 5 minutes we were on the phone with some tweaker in Acton, and by dinner time we were enjoying some Double-Doubles and painting an unsuspecting car Flat White.... courtesy of Greg's step dad's shed!!!

This car surprisingly lasted us 2 whole weeks!! We did high speed drifts through open, muddy fields. We hill-climbed it. We jumped that poor Toyota mercilessly until eventually one of the front shock mounts broke. We Colin Mcfarre'd the crap out of that thing!! Alas, the car was put out of its misery (self-inflicted, probably) when we put a nice big gaping hole in the oil pan and the poor Celica bled out. We contemplated Quick-Steeling it to see if we could get it to hold oil again (yes, that's how country we were, that at 16 we knew JB weld/Quicksteel and some duck tape could get us out of most automotive jams). But we decided that there was only one way to properly honor this car and the unforgettable 2 weeks of fun it provided us; A BURIAL AT SEA.


Well, kinda.


Even though Santa Clarita is no more than 45 minutes from the beach, we knew there was no way we could safely get this car to the beach. Plus, we knew that was just waaaaaay too wrong, even for a bunch of white trash misfits like us. Pluuuuus, none of our parents had a flatbed trailer for us to tow this Celica with. PLUUUUUUUUUS, none of our parents really even knew we had this car :lol:. What we did have however, was a tow strap and my buddies 72' FJ40. So we towed it up Coarse Gold Rd as far as we could, drained the remaining fuel and disconnected the battery. Observed a moment of silence for our Flat White 86' Celica, eased the transmission into neutral and shoved her off to her final resting place. 45 seconds, an EXPLOSION of laughter, followed by countless high-5's and a lifetime of memories later...... Esmerelda came to a cartwheeling, crashing halt at the bottom of a 400' revine. I wish I had pictures (I'm sure one of us has polaroids somewhere) but I don't. Just the memories!! (sorry mizennials, this was a time when Myspace was in its absolute infancy, the second phone line in our houses were for dial-up connection, and anything that resembled a smart phone was still a decade away).


FUN FACT!! A couple years ago I went on a dirt bike ride in the Drink Water Flats area. I checked to see if Esmerelda was still there..... SHE WAS!!! Although burnt to a crisp as no less than three brushfires have gone through that area in the 20+ years since that drizzly February afternoon.





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Throttle to the floor, eye of the prize!!


I arrived in Colorado Springs early Thursday Morning where I was going to do the bulk of my stateside testing of the Mazda Demio. I glanced at the dash of my Transit and the clock read 2:06am. Esther had wanted me to contact her when I arrived at the Colorado Springs rally facility, presumably so she could contact the gate keeper of the track. But I decided to tuck my rig next to the eastern fence right behind a track billboard, that way Mr Van and myself would be blocked from the sun when it rose in a few hours. Besides, I know Esther wouldn't hesitate but 4 Mississippi's to wake up the poor chap who guarded the track at night, 2am be damned! Judging by her constant hounding the entire week at any and all hours of the day, asking for updates and my location, she is definitely one who doesn't value sleep or know that most of the world's inhabitants don't lead a Mach-5, Singapore life style!!



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Besides motorcycle racing on Saturday and Sunday, I came to Colorado to see if I could find ANY usefulness in this car.... no doubt inspired by my aforementioned memories of bygone days. I figured that if anything, I would at least have some fun thrashing this thing about in a way that Mazda never intended for, and Esther would have never approved of!



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There's a youtube channel with a couple of blokes, who's sole purpose is to test drive a bunch of random cars to see if they can "rally". Aided by the Demio's compact dimensions and low power, AND with their format as a guide..... it was here that I found the Demio's sweet spot! This isn't my first time in a rally car, no. With my many years in the motorcycle industry, I've had several high profile friends who've made the switch from motocross to Rallycross. I've been blessed with several unique opportunities to take a few very high powered rally cars through their paces at the likes of Glen Helen motorsports park, Johnson Valley OHV and Plaster city to name just a Few!! This session however, was by far the most fun I've ever had in a rally.....eerrrrr...commuter car! Mostly because this car didn't belong to me, and I was more or less told I could do whatever I wanted with the car as long as it made it back to the Mazda dealership in Fashion Valley.




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As is always the case with the Rockies, a storm is never too far away



The peppy and surprisingly torquey motor, mated to a close-ratio gear box made this thing an absolute hoot to stuff into corners at speeds that felt absolutely reckless when you take in account the chassis flex, suspension nowhere near up for the task, and the complete absence of any FIA-mandated roll cages, plexiglass windscreen, auto fuel shutoff or fire extinguisher. The set of alloys equipped with a fresh set of dirt tires that I impacted on right before I went out for my first session (mainly to test Mr. Van's new Goal Zero 3000x power bank under heavy loads, if I'm being honest) were the only part of this Demio that were up to snuff for the challenge that lay ahead.



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Within the first 10 minutes of my first session, I figured out THE ONLY way to make hay with the Demio, was to treat it like a 125 two stroke - KEEP THE THROTTLE PINNED AT ALL TIMES and NEVER, EVER TOUCH THE BRAKES!! If I needed to make an abrupt change of direction, just mash the clutch along with a rental car-esque pull of the hand brake..... and the car would eventually go wherever you pointed the nose. For a Rally novice like myself, this was the perfect car to really experience the art form of 4 wheel drifting...teetering on the ragged edge of disaster and ecstasy, just as Coloin McRae intended!!



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Punched a hole in the radiator and put a hairline crack in the upper control arm after this one. Nothing some quicksteel can't fix!




No matter how many ham-fisted mistakes I made, the Demio always steered me in the right direction. If anything, the complete lack of power and outright speed made it possible for me to feel, absorb, and react to every bump and granular imperfection down to a nat's ass. YES, this car has been dumb'd down with electric-aided steering and the like. But the complete lack of suitable offload suspension never left me in doubt when something bad was about to happen. HOWEVER, with a 0-60 time that could be computed using a Sundial, salvation was never but a ever so light brush of the brakes away. As ashamed as I was to be seen testing the Demio in any performance setting (let alone anything that resembled a dimly lit parking lot, in some podunk ghost town 1000 miles from the nearest intelligent organism), I couldn't help but giggle as I ruthlessly stuffed it into every corner like Joey Chestnut pounding hotdogs. The harder I pushed the pint-size Mazda, the more I was rewarded. I burnt through tank after tank of low test, over-priced fuel, but after about three and a half hours straight, I began hearing some clunks coming from the front left A-arm. Having absolutely zero intention of bringing this car home in one piece, I continued to pour the coals to the Demio until something catastrophic happened and old Roy Wheeler (who let me through the gates in the morning) had to come pluck me from the course with his vintage Chevy 1 Ton wrecker. In the end, it wasn't a snapped shock mount, a broken axel, a taco'd chassis, or even a punctured oil pan that did the mighty Demio in. No, it was much more trivial than that. It was something that could have only happened in this modern era of over-reaching Big Brother emission mandates where a 50mpg commuter car isn't good enough for the EPA. After a particularly hard landing, I heard and felt the familiar scrape of the skid plate. However, after this particular landing, I heard something dragging underneath me heading into the next slight right. Figuring it was just the skid plate, I continued on knowing that I was going to be out of fuel completely in about 15 minutes anyways. That lasted exactly 3 corners until whatever I was dragging finally let loose, followed immediately by a spudder, a cough, and then death.

Well.... almost death.



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Turns out, that skid plate I was dragging, was actually my power robbing exhaust. As soon as I hit the next suspension-bottoming bump, the exhaust system aft of the catalytic converter was ripped clean off, causing the Demio to go into some sort of limp mode.

Imagine that. 22 years ago, taking a hacksaw to your exhaust was an obnoxious way that white trash kids from Santa Clarita did to gain a few extra horsepower, eye rolls from the fairer sex, and a fix-it ticket from the Sheriff. Nowadays, a sheared exhaust will leave you stranded in BFE with no hope other than some Zennial Hacker with a laptop and an affinity for hacking crappy commuter cars that no kid in their right mind would ever even think about.

After Roy towed me off the track and into the pits, I sat in the back of my van with a PBR tallboy and just gazed at the Demio for about 10 minutes. Never in a million years did I think I'd be testing a K-car for THE PREMIER high performance car publication in the world. And never in a billion years did I think I'd find myself in Colorado with said car, trying to find something it was good at. Yet, here I was.... sun beginning to set behind the mountains, cold beer in hand, Elk sizzling on the grill, and the feeling of satisfaction..... that I actually accomplished something.... and that the Demio had proved me wrong.




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Rolling the car back onto the flatbed, I surveyed the damage. Surprisingly enough, I had service on my cellular device, so I fired off an email to Esther with a parts list to be shipped to my house. No later than pressing the send button, did I receive a reply back from her asking why I needed $3750 worth of parts (plus labor) for a car that's worth 15k tops....and what the hell did I do to the Demio....and finally, to stop sending her entire messages in the subject line!

I curtly respond to her, "I'm ok btw, thanks for asking. And the mere fact that I'm requesting they be sent to my residence in San Diego should tip you off that I'll be performing the repairs myself."

Three minutes later, I receive a new email from Esther, with the entire message in the subject line that read "I know you're ok Andrew. if you weren't...I'd be getting a phone call from your emergency contact "mommy", who is still labeled as such in your phone might I add. Pathetic, really".

I reply, "I bet that absolutely killed you to force yourself to compose your email in the subject line Esther..." - Send.

She doesn't reply back.


I'm in bed by 9pm and on the road to Livermore for my motorcycle race by 0330 hours. After two days and 250 miles of racing, I'm on my way back home to San Diego Monday morning. I don't make the US ISDE team. Next year I turn 40 and I'll be eligible for the E4 class....2023 might be my year.

1179 miles later, I pull into my driveway, adorned with boxes of parts that had been overnighted from Japan.


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Stateside, we don't actually have Mazda Demio's. What we do have is a car that is mechanically identical to a Demio, but has been stripped of all Mazda badges and rebranded into something that is infinitely more marketable, by way of a Toyota Yaris or a Scion ia (thus even more proof of how little we care about Mazda's in the United States). In the beginning of this review, I mentioned that a Demio can serve as either a key launching off point to a successful life, or the unfortunate inevitability of what your life has become. For as little as 36,000 USD (crazy that a POS K-car would cost that much these days... thanks a lot China), you too can be the owner of a Yaris. It never ceases to amaze me how much relatively small decisions of vanity can affect entire outcomes in life. 3-1/2 years from now, the now 21 year old Isabella will be faced with a decision that WILL affect the trajectory of the life she dreams of...becoming a reality. Much to her dad's silent dismay, she never did meet that rich kid from Chapman university. What she did do however, was graduate a semester early and get accepted to Harvard Law, where she'll get a top notch education amongst the trust-fund white kids that either get dropped off at school by their family's driver, or pull into the lot in their sleek Mercedes that still has paper plates. You won't see a single Japanese luxury car in that parking lot, let alone a humble Mazda Demio. Its here in Cambridge Massachusetts that Isabella (a now beautiful young woman that still bares the emotional scars left from her awkward years that unfortunately lasted from 3rd grade all the way to her Junior year in high school) is going to be faced with crossroads. One road leads to her selling the Demio that her dad had just mailed her the pink slip after paying it off 3 months ago, leasing a 2019 BMW 5 series.... and thus leading her down a road that is littered with financial decisions that had to do more with acceptance and social media "likes" than financial responsibility....leaving her still single at 35, renting an apartment in Stamford Connecticut while commuting into the city working as an over-educated paralegal.

The other road leads to her driving her Yaris into her early thirties, meeting her husband while on holiday in Toronto at 29. 2 kids, a dog, a Porsche Cayenne and a 1.5 million dollar fixer-upper all by the time she's 37 years old. No matter which road she ends up going down, she'll remember that the crux of her inevitability was determined at approximately 1:30pm on that snowy January afternoon when she was unloading her life from the Yaris into the on campus student housing, contemplating her place (and worth) among the offspring of America's elite.



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While driving through Utah on my way home from Colorado, I began to wonder what was going to become of the Demio after I get her put back together. Even if it wasn't disclosed to Mazda exactly what I did with the car, it wouldn't take the dealership mechanic but 5 minutes once the car was on the lift, to realize that this car was a literal lawsuit in the making. He for sure would not put his signature on ANY paperwork that deemed this car a "certified used car", no matter how much Jason, the GM pleaded to him citing low dealership inventory. No.... it would either get sold off to one of those sleazy used car with a bungalow office that you see on even sleazier street corners, or it would get salvaged.

It was then as I drove through Vegas, that an idea occurred to me.

By early Wednesday evening, I had replaced the both front upper control arms, installed new struts on all 4 corners, a new radiator, all new skid plates and a fresh exhaust system. Surprisingly, Esther had arranged for a detail guy to come the next morning and give the Demio a thorough scrubbing inside and out (no doubt to save face amongst corporate Mazda and the COTW execs). I told her that I would drop the car off by noon after the detailer was finished. As Earnest went to work on the exterior trying to buff out some of the desert pin striping that adorned both sides of the car, I was fast at work perusing Craig's List 'want' ads. What I was searching for was literally a dime a dozen..... but whom I was searching for would be slightly more elusive. After about 90 minutes of phone calls that were more like interviews, I found exactly who I was looking for. I tipped Earnest $80 for his work, drove down to the Valero station at the bottom of the hill, and then headed southbound on the 5 freeway for 25 minutes till I exited at Dairy Mart Road in San Ysidro. I headed due East for 2 blocks then came to a stop in front of a small, rundown 10 unit Section-8 apartment complex. I'm greeted by Hector and his two twin toddler boys, Jose and Oscar.

"I didn't actually expect you to show up compa"

"why would you think that buddy?"

"h-when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is"

"we all are meant to stumble upon some good luck every once in a while"

"Well, like my want ad said.... I have $700 to spend. It would feel wrong to not give it to you my friend. Specially' since the car is mas o menos brand new and all.... here...please... take it Señor Andres"

"no need Hector, save that money for something else....Invest it for the twins education"

"you...you have no idea what this means to me and my family Andres, es...es....es-been really tough since we got granted citizenship and stuff...plus Covid...neither Maria nor could work for months"

"don't mention it Hec. Hey, like I said on the phone, I'll get the pink slip to you in about a week - probably less. The paper registration is in the glove box. If you hear any creaks or feel any shudders out of the front, lemme know. I torqued everything to spec, but sometimes things loosen up as everything seats in. Oh, and in the trunk there's a few parts that I didn't end up using.... a set of axels, front wheel bearings, and a new cat. This thing should be good for a few hundred thousand miles"

"Thank you señor J****y. Never did I expect sum-ting like this. Hey, if you ever need a plumber or a pipe fitter, don't hesitate to call me, please. We're insurance, license', and bonded and all that stuff. I used to do tile too, but plumbing is better for the family".

"will do Hector, enjoy the car my friend"



My über pulls up and Hector and I shake hands. I give both of his boys high-5's and step into the awaiting Prius. The sun is beginning to set over the pacific as we head northbound on the 5 and when we exit at Seaworld drive, I tell the driver just to drop me off at the bottom of the hill at Sidecar instead of taking me home. Its been a long 2 weeks and I need a stiff drink that only a dive bar can mix. Plus they have a Ivan Stewart's Offroad Challenge there.


///////////////




"YOU DID WHAT WITH THE C--"

"-Oh stop it Esther, save the theatrics. Besides, the mere fact that it took you 45 minutes to call me after I sent the email proves that you've already been fast at work figuring out how to parlay this into a Business loss and an insurance claim. Hell, I bet you've even drafted a letter to Mazda Corporate persuading them to run this up the flag pole. God knows they could use the favorable press... and if you haven't been doing those things, you probably should be! - 'Jake, yeah buddy... 1 more old fashioned please. Wait...no...make that a Manhattan Up. Yeah...thanks dude' - . Anyways, I gotta do some editing on my review. Should be in your inbox in 12 hours or so".

"Square already got his piece in 5 days ago. Same with Racer and Rick. Don't make me regret bringing you on Andrew...."

"Sounds a bit like you already do. Listen, this is all going to work out. For Mazda, COTW, you.... and most of all Hector and is family. I'll talk to you later. OH WAIT!...... before I let you go, I ne--"

"LET ME GO??"
"Yea...letyago...... LOOK...I need you to send me the pink slip for the Demio"

"COTW doesn't own that car ANDREW, THAT CAR was on loan from Mazda Fashion Valley"

"Thennnn....Cooonviiiiiince....Themmmm.... to give it to you Esther"

"Don't tell me how to do my job Andrew"

"You're absolutely right, I shouldn't have to - 'Jake! My man...thanks buddy!' - Gotta go Esther, I'll talk to you later". CLICK.



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



So where exactly does this leave the Mighty Mazda Demio in the context of COTW and the Grand scheme of life?

As far as COTW... I haven't the forken' clue! I might be a novice car reviewer and even a worse writer, but even a dummy like me can tell you that no one... and I mean NO ONE in a million years would buy a Demio because of its superior performance. Frankly, I don't know why anyone would buy it as a commuter either. The only people a Demio makes sense for, is someone that needs a commuter but is confined to street parking with no means of charging a hybrid. Then...I guess...I could see it making sense. That, and rental car companies that don't keep any car long enough to recoup the extra upfront investment of a Hybrid.

As for a life-launching off point though.....

Man, this is the car that will bring new a new generation of successful people into the world. The person who gets this car and keeps it despite its utter lack of performance, poor styling cues, average at best reliability, and non existent resale value; will no doubt be smart enough to overlook all of this. Because they know that a big chunk of future success will be dependent on this car.

The Demio is for the middle-aged-pot-bellied, loving father that only wants the best chance for his daughter. Its for the young woman that dreams of having a career and a family. Its for the 39 year old backup guitarist who finally realizes that him and "The Bloody Toenails" will never make it bigger than Tuesday nights at the Music Box.

The Demio is for that first generation immigrant family that dreams of Middle Class.





20220213001925.jpg




The Demio is nothing. Yet, everything.






now to see what those clowns have been texting about...
 

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Managed a 06.36.477 with it on the Nords on RH tyres. On my list, it's the 20th fastest Gr. 3 car, so one of the slowest.
 
Boasting a 1.5L NA engine up front mated to a 6 speed stick sending power to the rear of a tiny car weighing around a tonne, which is distributed evenly front to rear, and flaunting a removable top, you'd be forgiven if you had already started packing up your saddles, reins, and diapers to do some Jinba–Ittaiing in yet another Mazda Roadster in two short weeks. But instead, we have a horrifically awkward Hatsune Miku and Toyota on the confocal dish due for examination this week. Specifically, the 2015 S-FR that, unlike the Roadster, never made it to production.


...or do we have a Toyota under our very noses? Upon closer inspection under the microscope, there is more that an S-FR shares in common with the omnipresent Roadster that extend beyond the spec sheets. To quote again from Japanese Nostalgic Car, "the windshield frames, door cutlines, and the doors on the NC Miata and the S-FR are nearly identical", along with many other "hard points" in car design, lending credence to the theory that the Toyota S-FR is in fact, a stretched, outgoing Mazda Roadster underneath. It would seem that before the flirty Toyota got into bed with BMW and Subaru, it had a short lived fling with Mazda once!


Regardless of your stance on platform sharing, it truly is a shame that the S-FR never made it to production, despite already having three brake lamps, turn signals, reverse lights, mirrors, a fuel door, license plate holders, stats accounted for, an overdrive 6th gear, generous ground clearance, and normally sized tyres and wheels, simply because the S-FR's absence means that we have less variety in the spartan sports car market to choose from. And gosh knows we could use a break from the cold, soulless EVs that weigh about the same as the glaciers they're purportedly saving.


That holds doubly true if you've ever had the chance to sample the S-FR from within its fully rendered and functional interior, because the S-FR drives like a Roadster on steroids despite having barely any more power: at 133HP (99kW), that's only 5HP more than the 1.5L engined ND Roadsters that is exclusive to its domestic market. The sprightliness of the S-FR is all down to its stiffened setup in comparison to the ND—the S-FR's springs are set at 1.5Hz front and rear as opposed to the family car like 1.3 of the ND, for starters. In addition to this, the S-FR also packs a strictly prohibitive locking differential as well under its boot floor. Just those two simple changes, and "Jinba–Ittai" feeling I lamented I could not find in the ND Roadster came banging on my door instead in the S-FR. The end result is as spectacular as you can imagine, lending itself again and again to closely fought races up and down the grid, regardless of tracks. I said in the lobby during race day and I'll say it again here: "I feel like I could race this thing a hundred times and not get bored of it". It's THAT good.



So, is it a safe, foregone conclusion that Mazda saw this yellow devil and promptly corresponded the hue of their undergarments to match, pulling out of Toyota–chan early and running away butt naked into the night? While that may very well be the case, I find that Mazda–kun had grossly overreacted if that were how things played out. Despite being so fervently similar to each other on the spec sheet, the S-FR and Roadster I find are starkly different machines behind the wheel with their corresponding strengths and weaknesses, that can justify their own existences even in the presence of the other. The S-FR is the more buttoned down, serious business car, one that gives drivers anything they ask for the moment they ask for it with surgical precision and without drama, almost like a racecar. It is something that removes the "car" aspects of the equation entirely to let drivers focus solely on battling their opponents instead of also having to worry about the uncooperativeness of their steed. I do not exaggerate when I say that the S-FR has less vices and presents less problems than many full fledged racecars we've tested here on Car Of The Week, such as... oh I dunno, last week for example? Don't let its meager power figure fool you—the S-FR drives more like a race car than most built to spec racecars here in Gran Turismo.


To this end, the S-FR was incredibly stable to drive, perhaps almost too much so; the FR car drove with so little mischief that it feels almost unnatural and uncanny, like a newborn baby that isn't crying. Had I not looked at the specs of the thing prior driving it, I would've sworn it was a very well sorted FF or even AWD! You can't get the rear end to helpfully slide out a bit to get the front of the car to bite an apex, much less play with it. Whatever the situation, it's always the front tyres that are the limiting factor in any turn. So much for a car with "FR" in its name, right?! Without the outside influence of grass, jumps, or other competitors bumping into you, it is quite simply impossible to break the S-FR's rear end loose without the handbrake, and I never once applied even a hint of opposite lock in the S-FR outside of these extreme situations that I shouldn't have been in in the first place if I were good enough a driver. Even then, it was just a quick flash of opposite lock before the car got back to being planted and straight again. It is just a car that simply does NOT want to derail.


The Roadster on the other hand, is the complete opposite of that: soft, loose, lairy, and incessantly playful. It'd break out sideways even if you didn't mean any drama if you're too rough with the car. It's a challenge in itself just to keep the car pointed roughly where it's heading! Where the S-FR makes you work to get it rotated into the apex of a corner, the Roadster is challenging you instead to keep it from swinging out every time the wheel is turned.


While on paper it may sound like the S-FR is the much better car, in reality I find it really rather depends on what your driving style is, and most importantly, what sort of track you're running on that will determine which car is best. On a low speed, nefariously narrow and torturously twisty track such as Tsukuba or Horse Thief Mile, the Roadster's tail happiness allows it to carry that much more speed into a corner and clip apexes later than the S-FR, allowing the lighter Mazda to out–dance the Toyota at these tracks, and not even by a small margin. On wider, straighter tracks however, the surefootedness and more focused nature of the S-FR is sure to overpower the Roadster. Laguna Seca I think is the tipping point where both cars are of roughly equal footing, for reference. Whatever the track though, make no mistake that the Roadster will always be a lot more challenging and dangerous a drive than the S-FR, which makes the Toyota the better beginner's car, albeit one that I think wouldn't teach drivers anything at all about the tendencies of an RWD car, how to perceive their nuances, and the appropriate reaction to the crises they bring. Like I said, both have their own corresponding niches and weaknesses, almost like Yin and Yang. Realising that, it becomes all the more a shame to know that the S-FR will almost certainly never see production, because I feel that they complement each other so well!


As for the styling of the car, I'm conflicted. I don't think I'll ever get over the dorky pig stare of the front grille and headlights. The bulges and humps on the bonnet look weird, and the rear end of the car looks awkward and lacking in something at the same time to me for reasons I can't quite put a finger on. I keep wanting its third brake lamp to be on the boot lid to break up the wide, unused surface! However, I really, really love the side profile view of the car; I love the airy feeling with a copious amount of glass, and I especially love how the rear quarter glass panel meets and connects the rear glass and door windows. I love all the quirky hexagons that adorn the car, from the grille to its interior, and the sole colour offered on the concept car, an unnamed shade of yellow, goes so well with the high contrast yellow and red instrument display, that would make someone at Maranello write up a C&D using horse manure with incredible furor. Again, the lack of a full production model hurts the car so much, because I would love to see these yellow accents and styling cues correspond to match other exterior colours of the car. Presently, these little details are stuck as yellow, which makes painting the car incredibly awkward and painful for me personally. I think this car would look phenomenal in a light, metallic shade of sky blue. Heck, I even painted one in Soul Red Premium Metallic, just to bring it closer to the 2014 "NC.5" Roadster that I also very much need in the game.


While the S-FR currently seems eternally doomed to obscurity and "what–ifs", I find that a part of its character has perhaps lived on in the GR86, being a more track focused competitor to the Roadster. Perhaps Toyota was right in offering us variety in the sense that, instead of yet another cramped convertible sports car, we could instead have something roomier for our larger Western friends to fit in, and also slightly more powerful to compensate. But just because the S-FR never managed to compete with the Roadster in sales, make absolutely no mistake that it is well and truly a serious Roadster competitor as far as driving feel is concerned, perhaps the most legitimate one in the quarter of a century since the latter's inception. It adds a lemon flavoured twist to the enduring Roadster recipe, and I have a feeling that many would prefer it to the Mazda if they just had the chance to sample this delicious car for themselves. It's so rare that I get completely blindsided by a sleeper of a car that I hadn't even taken a look at in the barren car roster of Gran Turismo Sport, and the S-FR blew me away completely! ...why are you still reading this? Go drive one for yourself if you haven't already!
 
The garage door lowered behind me in a deliberately menacing pace, making all the precise creaking and squealing noises to unnerve even the bravest of men in the ensuing darkness—not that I'd know anything about that.

My name is Lee. In my off time, I whine and moan about performance cars on the internet behind the veil of anonymity and the nigh infallible security of my home country, Singapore. The problem now is that I'm not in Singapore, and the near 130kg frame of mine is hardly covert in person even if I weren't in this bright orange hazmat suit hooked up to a 20kg oxygen tank. I've been a little ill in the past few days, which is the only reason why I've had the luxury of taking a break from my real job to focus on my side hustle for the first time in a while. Yes, I'm Asian, and unfortunately this is just how we all are. And no, before you ask, I usually write my car reviews in just my underwear on the cooler days in tropical Singapore, not adorned in hazmat suits within point blank range of several bazookas here in the Honda Collection Hall in Twin Ring Motegi.

"Ready!" I hear a man shout in rather funky Japanese. For a while, nothing happened—the only sounds I could hear are my own irregular breaths and embarrassingly rapid heartbeats. The room has been enshrouded in complete darkness after the garage door has choked all light out of the room. Unsure as if the man was addressing me, I voice out: "are you tal-"

Out of nowhere, an explosive force knocked me clean into the air! The impact of which sought and found my body right down to my every bone with equal ferocity, the pain of which at least was indicative that I had yet to be dismembered by the explosion. As a moaning, limp heap on the ground though, I can't say it made much of a difference either way.

"Disinfection Complete!", I hear the same voice shout before the lights flicked on. My blurry vision desperately tried to focus on my new world, cloaked in foaming yellow liquid. It might be semi erotic if consent had been sought beforehand, or if, you know, I knew who did this to me.

"It's been a while", came another voice. It was Esther, my editor.

"ESTHER WHAT THE HELL", I bellowed before immediately regretting using what little breath I could take in to shout. A bout of coughing fit followed, though I'm certain this one didn't have anything to do with me being ill.

"I'm doing fine, thank you", she replies in her unwavering business tone, as though I were the only one who went off script in a play I had no idea I was playing a part in. I suppose that's her way of saying, "I don't care about you or your life threatening predicament, we have work to do". Urgh, Asians. And we wonder why we have problems with declining birth rates in so many of our countries.

"I trust your flight went well", she continued nonchalant to my plight and suffering. "As per our discussion in emails, this is Andrew, the new employee here at Car of the Week. Andrew, Lee. Lee, Andrew."

Wiping the liquid from the visor of my suit, I can barely make out a tall, Caucasian man with a HUGE, dripping rod in his arms and an even bigger grin on his gnarly face. "San Diego Fire Department at your service! I hear you like the taste of piss, eh?!"

San Diego?! Piss? What? Aren't we in Twin Ring- WHAT?!

"Aw come on, get up. It's only Tiger Beer! That stuff's couldn't knock out Obelisk's weakest rabbits!"

"Ahh... yeah... Yard... We've met... on the start line of Suzuka- OOF!", I mumble as I heaved and ho-ed my deadweight carcass off the ground, only to slip on the sea of a floor and fall again, the BOINK of the oxygen tanks behind me only helping highlight my misadventures further. I really have become a comic book character, haven't I? "He's the guy that revs out a diesel Demio. Can't say I know him very well."

"And he's the guy that passes out after 2 large Sakes."

"After you said that it was just water!"

"It was! ...basically!"

A sigh. It was Esther, who wasn't very bemused with our bickering. "Is this how men communicate?"

"Basically"
"No"

"We have a car to test. Get to it. Chaperone Andrew, show him the ropes, and maybe teach him how to write an email properly." With her signal, the firetruck adorned with Tiger Beer livery reversed away to reveal the awaiting Honda. Could it be a fourth generation Fit Hybrid after I fell in love with the third gen while testing it on the public roads of Singapore? Perhaps Honda is going to do me a solid and provide us with the Modulo S660 that I've been chomping at the bits to test after having reviewed the base car? Or would they pass my newly bought 2002 NSX Type R around the crew, some of whom can be very crude and uncultured, to test and review as a way of flipping me off for bargaining the price with them?

Oh you have got to be kidding me.

It is an NSX... well, technically speaking, anyway. The Gr.3 variant of the third generation "nsx", the NC1.


"Ahh yes, finally, a racing car! None of that slow commuter A to B crap!", exclaimed Andrew, visibly beaming with excitement even through his flame retardant suit.

"Are we not done with this turd yet?", I protest. I've written off the 2017 base car and even its fire breathing GT500 counterpart, going as far as to say that the NC1 "nsx"es are always destined to play second fiddle to the GT-R because of how terrible they are. And so the thought of reviewing yet another isn't exactly setting my pants on fire. Even Tiger Beer would do a better job of that... not that I'd want to prove that right now drenched head to toe in it, even in the presence of one fireman.

"An open mind, Lee, please. Don't cloud the judgment of Andrew here, who isn't as biased as you."

"Have you read his Demio review?!"

"Of course. That's my job as an editor. He came around in the end."

"How much arm twisting did you have to do?"

"Less than the three bones it usually takes you."

Sweet Baby Buddha this woman...

"Well, get to it. Load the cars up on the trucks and prepare to leave for Narita Airport in an hour. First race is at Maggiore, Italy."

"Wait, what about MY NSX?! The actually good one?!"

"Payment is being delayed I'm afraid. The Honda reps say March 4th is the earliest you'll get to see it—and that's if the stars align."

Urgh. Just my luck. I fly all the way here to see my newest baby, but instead I get blasted from head to toe by a ruffian and now have to leave saddled with a "nsx" that is neither my own nor a fraction as good. I sigh as I turned to face Andrew. "I hope you brought enough Quiksteel for us all. This car is uncontrollable. And if not then, well... maybe Esmerelda could use a friend after all this while."

"Quiksteel, incense sticks, Red Horse beer, and my buddy's flatbed are all ready to go!"

"No drinking on the job!", Esther and I explode in unison, inciting a resigned head toss from Andrew. Maybe we will get along after all.

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

The NC1 "nsx" is perhaps one of the most contentious cars in the modern era, and you probably can already guess my stance on it by now. It was too heavy, too complicated, drove like a pig, looked like a clown, and costs twice that of an R35 GT-R while barely being any faster—and that's if you spend enough time learning its odd at–the–limit quirks and behaviour and get used to them. Of course, a lot of that can be attributed to the onboard computers doing wizardry on the move that can only be understood by the geeks at Acura and no human being, along with the gargantuan mass of the batteries and motors that are needed to facilitate that nonsense. In short, it's way too complicated for its own good, and so one would think that being homologated into a racing category that puts a fixed price on all cars, hovers around 1.3 tonnes, mandates RWD and disallows hybrid systems would be the magic bullet of simplicity that transforms the NC1 from embarrassing to exciting.


In theory, it does somewhat. I mean, there's no fixing the look of the car unless you're a plastic surgeon, but everything else is actually quite peachy! The 3.5L Twin Turbo V6, despite having lost no less than three electric motors, still has a very flat torque curve, and it's not exactly laggy, either. The power loss of losing all three electric motors? 2HP. Pumping out an ample 568HP (424kW) before BoP takes its 3% cut, it really does make one wonder what exactly the hell the electric motors bring to the table in terms of spirited driving. Having lost the weighty batteries, motors, and sound deadening of the road car, one can finally hear the V6 of the "nsx" truly sing without autotune, and I daresay that it sounds the best among Japan's big three supercars!


As for cornering, well... that's where the other shoe of the NC1 drops. I mean, sure, it slices into corners well, and it's stable... up to a point. The NC1 has a very odd issue much like the 4C Gr.3 wherein the car doesn't very linearly approach its limits: it feels stable and reassuring up to maybe about nine tenths, and then the last tenth of its handling envelope goes by SO stupidly quickly, transforming the car from stable to slippery in split seconds in the worst of times. I theorise that the usual culprit of the car's default wheel alignment is at fault here for making the car lose grip in a hurry, and the stiff diff in the NC1 very quickly makes the other wheel follow along as well. This makes the NC1 a very nervous, unpredictable, and explosively moody car along rumble strips, and is horrifically allergic to having even half a driven tyre off the asphalt. It's a car that I have never felt comfortable bringing near its limits, which, needless to say, makes wheel to wheel racing with this very snappy and unpredictable NC1 more chaotic than most demolition derbies.


It's not even fast, either. One may posit that me and the NC1 just don't share the same wavelength, and that's a fair argument. I therefore thought to try racing other MR Gr.3 cars against the NC1, and Baron suggested to me to try the Renault Sport R.S. 01 GT3 and the Audi R8 LMS, supposedly because I'd learn to love the NC1 if I drove those cars. I did just that, and lo and behold, I grew to despise the NC1 even more, because driving other tail happy MR cars just made me realise just how utterly garbage the "Honda" is.


It took just half a lap of getting a feel for the Renault around Suzuka for me to uncharacteristically assert during race day, "I will slay you all in the Renault". Helps that Vic wasn't in attendance this week, heh. During the Renault's first race at Dragon Trail: Seaside, I quickly dispatched the field of NC1s, leaving only my countryman and fellow weeb, RX8, to catch, some four seconds up the road, with only three and a half laps to close it. An impossible feat for two drivers of roughly equal skill, as our driver ratings would suggest. Not to mention, he had three previous races in the NC1 to get to know it, and I was driving my Renault with only 5km on the odometer.

You... don't need me to spell out what happened, do you?


I took the lead from him on Turn 1 of lap 4, and never once looked back. At the last corner of the race, I had opened up just about a whole second to the 2D mobile. It looked like a dominant victory for me until I kinda mucked up the last corner, losing the car on the kerb on the corner exit of the last corner of the last lap and almost wound up in the pits, or even the pit divider. I managed to save it, but limped across the line in a close 2nd between Rick and RX8. I know I screwed up and it makes my argument sound more flimsy but just bear with me for a while, okay?!


Then I tried the R8 LMS, which, truth be told, is one of my personal favourites when it comes to Gr.3 cars. At Red Bull Ring, I just about started last on the grid, being boxed in by the slow af NC1s off the line. I went on to win the race.

Again, I want to stress: I don't have THAT much of a skill gap between my peers. Can something as simple as "wavelength" and "chemistry" account for such a ridiculous pace difference? Or is the NC1 simply irredeemable garbage? The truth most likely lies somewhere in between the two, but I'd wager it leans much more towards the odious latter.


Yes, of course, both the Renault and the Audi are very tail happy cars. Moreso than the NC1 in fact. That's why Baron thought that I'd learn to appreciate the NC1 after driving them. So what is it that makes the R.S. 01 GT3 and R8 LMS so good, while the NC1 revels in its awfulness? The difference I find is simply that the Renault and Audi are simply more linear in how they approach their limits. They're more communicative. That makes wrecks easier to avoid and anticipate, and gives me more confidence in bringing them up to their limits. Their looseness can actually help rotate the car into the apex of a corner, whereas the snappy NC1 will make you break a limb if you break its grip because of how snappy and unrecoverable it is. The other MR cars felt fun and at home even when sliding, whereas the NC1 is deeply upset by it. That I find is the main difference that makes the NC1 so awful to drive. I mean, it could also just be slow in a straight line as well, but at this point, highlighting more flaws of the NC1 would be beating a perfectly dead, completely decomposed, and happily reincarnated masochist of a horse at this point.


On the other end of the slidey spectrum, you have the Peugeot RCZ Gr.3, which we tested back in Week 158, when I fell in love with its delightful neutrality and unshakable stability. Even when it similarly dislikes sliding, the RCZ also nonchalantly whooped the NC1 around Red Bull Ring when driven by Baron! The lesson here is simple: if you want stability, make sure you aren't easily upset. If you want to be slidey, embrace it! Build up to it linearly! Let the slide help you! Don't try to straddle between the two extremes! It's almost like the road car trying to be a luxury car and a sports car at the same time; it simply doesn't work! Or like trying to be an all new supercar boasting innovation while bringing nothing new to the table, and then having to use a resurrected name and nostalgic paint offerings as a crutch to sell more units.

It is complete, utter garbage that no one should ever have to bother with. The road car and racecar both.

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

"No Esther, no matter how many bones you break this time, I am not changing my mind on the NC1", I greet her with as soon as her tiny frame emerged through the doorway.

"Hm? No, your bones are quite important, boss. I'd need you healthy to sign my paychecks", came her nonchalant reply as she set her files down on her table and pulled a chair for herself across me.

I sigh. For that moment, I felt incredibly stupid. "I guess all the legal prowess can't get you answers from beyond the grave", I spout, laid back against the hard restaurant chair facing the ceiling.

"We'll keep trying, but in the meantime, it does look like you'll be taking over if no one else steps up."

"I don't think I'm right for the job, Esther".

We've had this conversation before, but I've ran out of protests despite not coming any closer to acceptance. She knows this, and just keeps her silence, maybe waiting for something new, maybe thinking of another solution, I don't know.

"Who even reads this crap? These awkward exchanges. Our work lives. It's all so... cheesy. Stupid. Such a waste of time. It's got nothing to do with the cars."

"Nat, and now Andrew reads them. Heck, you're the most animated I've seen you when you read their stories and reviews."

"Car of the Week is bigger than me, Esther. I don't want to dominate it. I feel so... unworthy, you know? What about the vets, like Vic and Nismo? I just walk in here one day and I fall ass backwards into becoming the organiser of the world's most expensive car magazine? Does that look right to you?"

"We all have to take advantage of what life gives us, Lee. You have hardly any lemons in your hands. We all fall backwards into roles we didn't think we'd do. A lot of us normal folk don't end up with careers relevant to our field of study. I'm someone that wound up as an editor in a car magazine despite knowing nothing about cars. I'm having to learn about cars, about breaking bones, about being a chaperone, a lot of times from you, a lot of times because of you."

"It just... isn't me. I'm not funny. I'm not social. I'd die if I have to come up with these exaggerative Tiger Beer scenarios every week for the hell of it. I'm not even that good behind the wheel. I've never had anyone critique my writing before! How do I know if I really am that good, or if it's simply because no one else is writing?!"

Her reply was silence this time.

"I feel like I'm... having to play pretend. Like I'm having to wear a name someone else built before me. Having to straddle between many extremes. And that... doesn't... work."

"Would you rather see this end, then?"

"NO!"

"Then try. For us all, please."

I sigh. The meal we had was probably the most silent one in recorded human history, with neither of us speaking a word, highlighting the frustrated clinks and clangs of the crockery against the plate. After submitting my draft to Esther in person, we walked over to my Honda Fit to ferry the editor without a driving licence home.

"Should I sit in the back?", she asks after opening the passenger side door.

"What? Why- OH! One moment...", I mutter before remembering my cargo, rushing over to her side and damn near breaking my back lifting the 4.5kg brick out of my passenger seat.

"What is that?", she asks curiously, unable to retain her strict work demeanor.

"A receipt... urgh!", I reply as I toss the thing into the rear of the car. It was so heavy that it bounced more than once on the soft leather seat upon impact.

"A... receipt?", she asks, even more puzzled than before I answered.

"Look, I don't get it either, okay? But it's a storage device containing a receipt for my thousand SGD deposit for my 2002 NSX-R. Honda must've ran out of paper in the pandemic or something, I dunno."

She gives one last look at the curious oddity before deciding to hell with it, and sat down in the front.

"Just call it an investment into COTW", I said with a smile as I joined her in the front, buckling up.

 
I probably would have pipped Square for 2nd at Dragon Trail had I not completely butchered the Death Chicane on the final lap. Oh well.

And man, I can’t help but admire the white, black and red itasha livery that I made. Square really nailed the photography here.

The NSX is so-so, in my opinion. Granted, I did have some previous experience with the NSX from running the Red Bull Beat the Pro time trial (I just barely beat Tsunoda’s time). The NSX handles decently for the most part until we got to the Red Bull Ring, where it is far too easy to lose the rear end and lose a ton of speed, especially at turn 4. Being that bad at the very sharp and slow corners pretty much turned me off from the NSX as a regular Gr.3 choice, though it was nice to drive at other circuits with more forgiving slow corners.
 
The garage door lowered behind me in a deliberately menacing pace, making all the precise creaking and squealing noises to unnerve even the bravest of men in the ensuing darkness—not that I'd know anything about that.

My name is Lee. In my off time, I whine and moan about performance cars on the internet behind the veil of anonymity and the nigh infallible security of my home country, Singapore. The problem now is that I'm not in Singapore, and the near 130kg frame of mine is hardly covert in person even if I weren't in this bright orange hazmat suit hooked up to a 20kg oxygen tank. I've been a little ill in the past few days, which is the only reason why I've had the luxury of taking a break from my real job to focus on my side hustle for the first time in a while. Yes, I'm Asian, and unfortunately this is just how we all are. And no, before you ask, I usually write my car reviews in just my underwear on the cooler days in tropical Singapore, not adorned in hazmat suits within point blank range of several bazookas here in the Honda Collection Hall in Twin Ring Motegi.

"Ready!" I hear a man shout in rather funky Japanese. For a while, nothing happened—the only sounds I could hear are my own irregular breaths and embarrassingly rapid heartbeats. The room has been enshrouded in complete darkness after the garage door has choked all light out of the room. Unsure as if the man was addressing me, I voice out: "are you tal-"

Out of nowhere, an explosive force knocked me clean into the air! The impact of which sought and found my body right down to my every bone with equal ferocity, the pain of which at least was indicative that I had yet to be dismembered by the explosion. As a moaning, limp heap on the ground though, I can't say it made much of a difference either way.

"Disinfection Complete!", I hear the same voice shout before the lights flicked on. My blurry vision desperately tried to focus on my new world, cloaked in foaming yellow liquid. It might be semi erotic if consent had been sought beforehand, or if, you know, I knew who did this to me.

"It's been a while", came another voice. It was Esther, my editor.

"ESTHER WHAT THE HELL", I bellowed before immediately regretting using what little breath I could take in to shout. A bout of coughing fit followed, though I'm certain this one didn't have anything to do with me being ill.

"I'm doing fine, thank you", she replies in her unwavering business tone, as though I were the only one who went off script in a play I had no idea I was playing a part in. I suppose that's her way of saying, "I don't care about you or your life threatening predicament, we have work to do". Urgh, Asians. And we wonder why we have problems with declining birth rates in so many of our countries.

"I trust your flight went well", she continued nonchalant to my plight and suffering. "As per our discussion in emails, this is Andrew, the new employee here at Car of the Week. Andrew, Lee. Lee, Andrew."

Wiping the liquid from the visor of my suit, I can barely make out a tall, Caucasian man with a HUGE, dripping rod in his arms and an even bigger grin on his gnarly face. "San Diego Fire Department at your service! I hear you like the taste of piss, eh?!"

San Diego?! Piss? What? Aren't we in Twin Ring- WHAT?!

"Aw come on, get up. It's only Tiger Beer! That stuff's couldn't knock out Obelisk's weakest rabbits!"

"Ahh... yeah... Yard... We've met... on the start line of Suzuka- OOF!", I mumble as I heaved and ho-ed my deadweight carcass off the ground, only to slip on the sea of a floor and fall again, the BOINK of the oxygen tanks behind me only helping highlight my misadventures further. I really have become a comic book character, haven't I? "He's the guy that revs out a diesel Demio. Can't say I know him very well."

"And he's the guy that passes out after 2 large Sakes."

"After you said that it was just water!"

"It was! ...basically!"

A sigh. It was Esther, who wasn't very bemused with our bickering. "Is this how men communicate?"

"Basically"
"No"

"We have a car to test. Get to it. Chaperone Andrew, show him the ropes, and maybe teach him how to write an email properly." With her signal, the firetruck adorned with Tiger Beer livery reversed away to reveal the awaiting Honda. Could it be a fourth generation Fit Hybrid after I fell in love with the third gen while testing it on the public roads of Singapore? Perhaps Honda is going to do me a solid and provide us with the Modulo S660 that I've been chomping at the bits to test after having reviewed the base car? Or would they pass my newly bought 2002 NSX Type R around the crew, some of whom can be very crude and uncultured, to test and review as a way of flipping me off for bargaining the price with them?

Oh you have got to be kidding me.

It is an NSX... well, technically speaking, anyway. The Gr.3 variant of the third generation "nsx", the NC1.


"Ahh yes, finally, a racing car! None of that slow commuter A to B crap!", exclaimed Andrew, visibly beaming with excitement even through his flame retardant suit.

"Are we not done with this turd yet?", I protest. I've written off the 2017 base car and even its fire breathing GT500 counterpart, going as far as to say that the NC1 "nsx"es are always destined to play second fiddle to the GT-R because of how terrible they are. And so the thought of reviewing yet another isn't exactly setting my pants on fire. Even Tiger Beer would do a better job of that... not that I'd want to prove that right now drenched head to toe in it, even in the presence of one fireman.

"An open mind, Lee, please. Don't cloud the judgment of Andrew here, who isn't as biased as you."

"Have you read his Demio review?!"

"Of course. That's my job as an editor. He came around in the end."

"How much arm twisting did you have to do?"

"Less than the three bones it usually takes you."

Sweet Baby Buddha this woman...

"Well, get to it. Load the cars up on the trucks and prepare to leave for Narita Airport in an hour. First race is at Maggiore, Italy."

"Wait, what about MY NSX?! The actually good one?!"

"Payment is being delayed I'm afraid. The Honda reps say March 4th is the earliest you'll get to see it—and that's if the stars align."

Urgh. Just my luck. I fly all the way here to see my newest baby, but instead I get blasted from head to toe by a ruffian and now have to leave saddled with a "nsx" that is neither my own nor a fraction as good. I sigh as I turned to face Andrew. "I hope you brought enough Quiksteel for us all. This car is uncontrollable. And if not then, well... maybe Esmerelda could use a friend after all this while."

"Quiksteel, incense sticks, Red Horse beer, and my buddy's flatbed are all ready to go!"

"No drinking on the job!", Esther and I explode in unison, inciting a resigned head toss from Andrew. Maybe we will get along after all.

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

The NC1 "nsx" is perhaps one of the most contentious cars in the modern era, and you probably can already guess my stance on it by now. It was too heavy, too complicated, drove like a pig, looked like a clown, and costs twice that of an R35 GT-R while barely being any faster—and that's if you spend enough time learning its odd at–the–limit quirks and behaviour and get used to them. Of course, a lot of that can be attributed to the onboard computers doing wizardry on the move that can only be understood by the geeks at Acura and no human being, along with the gargantuan mass of the batteries and motors that are needed to facilitate that nonsense. In short, it's way too complicated for its own good, and so one would think that being homologated into a racing category that puts a fixed price on all cars, hovers around 1.3 tonnes, mandates RWD and disallows hybrid systems would be the magic bullet of simplicity that transforms the NC1 from embarrassing to exciting.


In theory, it does somewhat. I mean, there's no fixing the look of the car unless you're a plastic surgeon, but everything else is actually quite peachy! The 3.5L Twin Turbo V6, despite having lost no less than three electric motors, still has a very flat torque curve, and it's not exactly laggy, either. The power loss of losing all three electric motors? 2HP. Pumping out an ample 568HP (424kW) before BoP takes its 3% cut, it really does make one wonder what exactly the hell the electric motors bring to the table in terms of spirited driving. Having lost the weighty batteries, motors, and sound deadening of the road car, one can finally hear the V6 of the "nsx" truly sing without autotune, and I daresay that it sounds the best among Japan's big three supercars!


As for cornering, well... that's where the other shoe of the NC1 drops. I mean, sure, it slices into corners well, and it's stable... up to a point. The NC1 has a very odd issue much like the 4C Gr.3 wherein the car doesn't very linearly approach its limits: it feels stable and reassuring up to maybe about nine tenths, and then the last tenth of its handling envelope goes by SO stupidly quickly, transforming the car from stable to slippery in split seconds in the worst of times. I theorise that the usual culprit of the car's default wheel alignment is at fault here for making the car lose grip in a hurry, and the stiff diff in the NC1 very quickly makes the other wheel follow along as well. This makes the NC1 a very nervous, unpredictable, and explosively moody car along rumble strips, and is horrifically allergic to having even half a driven tyre off the asphalt. It's a car that I have never felt comfortable bringing near its limits, which, needless to say, makes wheel to wheel racing with this very snappy and unpredictable NC1 more chaotic than most demolition derbies.


It's not even fast, either. One may posit that me and the NC1 just don't share the same wavelength, and that's a fair argument. I therefore thought to try racing other MR Gr.3 cars against the NC1, and Baron suggested to me to try the Renault Sport R.S. 01 GT3 and the Audi R8 LMS, supposedly because I'd learn to love the NC1 if I drove those cars. I did just that, and lo and behold, I grew to despise the NC1 even more, because driving other tail happy MR cars just made me realise just how utterly garbage the "Honda" is.


It took just half a lap of getting a feel for the Renault around Suzuka for me to uncharacteristically assert during race day, "I will slay you all in the Renault". Helps that Vic wasn't in attendance this week, heh. During the Renault's first race at Dragon Trail: Seaside, I quickly dispatched the field of NC1s, leaving only my countryman and fellow weeb, RX8, to catch, some four seconds up the road, with only three and a half laps to close it. An impossible feat for two drivers of roughly equal skill, as our driver ratings would suggest. Not to mention, he had three previous races in the NC1 to get to know it, and I was driving my Renault with only 5km on the odometer.

You... don't need me to spell out what happened, do you?


I took the lead from him on Turn 1 of lap 4, and never once looked back. At the last corner of the race, I had opened up just about a whole second to the 2D mobile. It looked like a dominant victory for me until I kinda mucked up the last corner, losing the car on the kerb on the corner exit of the last corner of the last lap and almost wound up in the pits, or even the pit divider. I managed to save it, but limped across the line in a close 2nd between Rick and RX8. I know I screwed up and it makes my argument sound more flimsy but just bear with me for a while, okay?!


Then I tried the R8 LMS, which, truth be told, is one of my personal favourites when it comes to Gr.3 cars. At Red Bull Ring, I just about started last on the grid, being boxed in by the slow af NC1s off the line. I went on to win the race.

Again, I want to stress: I don't have THAT much of a skill gap between my peers. Can something as simple as "wavelength" and "chemistry" account for such a ridiculous pace difference? Or is the NC1 simply irredeemable garbage? The truth most likely lies somewhere in between the two, but I'd wager it leans much more towards the odious latter.


Yes, of course, both the Renault and the Audi are very tail happy cars. Moreso than the NC1 in fact. That's why Baron thought that I'd learn to appreciate the NC1 after driving them. So what is it that makes the R.S. 01 GT3 and R8 LMS so good, while the NC1 revels in its awfulness? The difference I find is simply that the Renault and Audi are simply more linear in how they approach their limits. They're more communicative. That makes wrecks easier to avoid and anticipate, and gives me more confidence in bringing them up to their limits. Their looseness can actually help rotate the car into the apex of a corner, whereas the snappy NC1 will make you break a limb if you break its grip because of how snappy and unrecoverable it is. The other MR cars felt fun and at home even when sliding, whereas the NC1 is deeply upset by it. That I find is the main difference that makes the NC1 so awful to drive. I mean, it could also just be slow in a straight line as well, but at this point, highlighting more flaws of the NC1 would be beating a perfectly dead, completely decomposed, and happily reincarnated masochist of a horse at this point.


On the other end of the slidey spectrum, you have the Peugeot RCZ Gr.3, which we tested back in Week 158, when I fell in love with its delightful neutrality and unshakable stability. Even when it similarly dislikes sliding, the RCZ also nonchalantly whooped the NC1 around Red Bull Ring when driven by Baron! The lesson here is simple: if you want stability, make sure you aren't easily upset. If you want to be slidey, embrace it! Build up to it linearly! Let the slide help you! Don't try to straddle between the two extremes! It's almost like the road car trying to be a luxury car and a sports car at the same time; it simply doesn't work! Or like trying to be an all new supercar boasting innovation while bringing nothing new to the table, and then having to use a resurrected name and nostalgic paint offerings as a crutch to sell more units.

It is complete, utter garbage that no one should ever have to bother with. The road car and racecar both.

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

"No Esther, no matter how many bones you break this time, I am not changing my mind on the NC1", I greet her with as soon as her tiny frame emerged through the doorway.

"Hm? No, your bones are quite important, boss. I'd need you healthy to sign my paychecks", came her nonchalant reply as she set her files down on her table and pulled a chair for herself across me.

I sigh. For that moment, I felt incredibly stupid. "I guess all the legal prowess can't get you answers from beyond the grave", I spout, laid back against the hard restaurant chair facing the ceiling.

"We'll keep trying, but in the meantime, it does look like you'll be taking over if no one else steps up."

"I don't think I'm right for the job, Esther".

We've had this conversation before, but I've ran out of protests despite not coming any closer to acceptance. She knows this, and just keeps her silence, maybe waiting for something new, maybe thinking of another solution, I don't know.

"Who even reads this crap? These awkward exchanges. Our work lives. It's all so... cheesy. Stupid. Such a waste of time. It's got nothing to do with the cars."

"Nat, and now Andrew reads them. Heck, you're the most animated I've seen you when you read their stories and reviews."

"Car of the Week is bigger than me, Esther. I don't want to dominate it. I feel so... unworthy, you know? What about the vets, like Vic and Nismo? I just walk in here one day and I fall ass backwards into becoming the organiser of the world's most expensive car magazine? Does that look right to you?"

"We all have to take advantage of what life gives us, Lee. You have hardly any lemons in your hands. We all fall backwards into roles we didn't think we'd do. A lot of us normal folk don't end up with careers relevant to our field of study. I'm someone that wound up as an editor in a car magazine despite knowing nothing about cars. I'm having to learn about cars, about breaking bones, about being a chaperone, a lot of times from you, a lot of times because of you."

"It just... isn't me. I'm not funny. I'm not social. I'd die if I have to come up with these exaggerative Tiger Beer scenarios every week for the hell of it. I'm not even that good behind the wheel. I've never had anyone critique my writing before! How do I know if I really am that good, or if it's simply because no one else is writing?!"

Her reply was silence this time.

"I feel like I'm... having to play pretend. Like I'm having to wear a name someone else built before me. Having to straddle between many extremes. And that... doesn't... work."

"Would you rather see this end, then?"

"NO!"

"Then try. For us all, please."

I sigh. The meal we had was probably the most silent one in recorded human history, with neither of us speaking a word, highlighting the frustrated clinks and clangs of the crockery against the plate. After submitting my draft to Esther in person, we walked over to my Honda Fit to ferry the editor without a driving licence home.

"Should I sit in the back?", she asks after opening the passenger side door.

"What? Why- OH! One moment...", I mutter before remembering my cargo, rushing over to her side and damn near breaking my back lifting the 4.5kg brick out of my passenger seat.

"What is that?", she asks curiously, unable to retain her strict work demeanor.

"A receipt... urgh!", I reply as I toss the thing into the rear of the car. It was so heavy that it bounced more than once on the soft leather seat upon impact.

"A... receipt?", she asks, even more puzzled than before I answered.

"Look, I don't get it either, okay? But it's a storage device containing a receipt for my thousand SGD deposit for my 2002 NSX-R. Honda must've ran out of paper in the pandemic or something, I dunno."

She gives one last look at the curious oddity before deciding to hell with it, and sat down in the front.

"Just call it an investment into COTW", I said with a smile as I joined her in the front, buckling up.

Great story Square!! 😂

It was nice getting in a couple races with you guys this past week. Hopefully more in the near future as my work schedule allows. And I move my sim rig to the garage and can sneak away for an hour quicker.

Currently working on an F40 review right now. I’ll gave it to press in a couple months I’m sure 🙄
 
While you knuckleheads were having fun without me, this is what I got to do last night:

E350B038-DF09-419B-B18C-0AC21AD45AB8.png



Just another business lost from what my city of employment’s mayor calls…. “Our un-housed neighbors”

This was the back of the building before we made entry. This fire was going stem to stern!
 
So.. here we are, Vic’s Road To GT7.

Last car I did was the Peugeot RCZ Gr3 so everything after that is on the to-do list.

Well let’s not stand around unceremoniously Vic, lettuce begin. :sly:

Ah yes, Italy’s Car For The People, The Fiat 500F.

With the GT7 Car list currently showing the classic Abarth tuned 695 as coming to GT7, the 500F is not only getting a twin, but a faster one too. ;)

With a 500cc 2 cylinder engine making a HUGE 16hp, the 500F isn’t gonna be setting any records, unless said record involves seeing how quick you get a GTS Lobby to hate you for picking SSRX in this thing. :crazy:

You know who you are. :lol:

Even fully tuned it’s just over 50hp and while that can help it crack the British Motorway speed limit (70mph) much easier, it does showcase another issue with the 500 and is a lesson in why when you tune your cars, it’s smart to not just dump all your effort into one part of it like the engine.

Why? Because the 500’s stock suspension was never designed for such power.

It lifts the front up in the turns, it wallows to the point of almost of kissing the tarmac with the door handles and because it’s an RR layout, the extra speed makes it tricky on corner entry with the tiny wheelbase not helping.

In short, when tuning, don’t half ass it. :P

In stock form, it’s just glacially slow, but keep the tracks short and it’s actually a fun little thing to race as even minor mistakes are amplified in terms of time loss.

I’m gonna be nice and say it’s Neutral, but with the 695 on the way, It might be left behind, especially with 695 making a whopping 37hp IRL.

Verdict: Netural :)

From Italy’s Car Of The People to the Tofu Panda.:sly:

The Toyota AE86 twins.

Technically it was the Corolla Levin that was picked, but we decided to include the Sprinter Trueno as aside from the pop up headlights and some visual differences, they are mechanically the same.

Powered by the same 128hp 1.6 litre 4 cylinder(quite the cracking little motor when tuned.),power is the rear via a 5 speed manual gearbox and both weigh 940kgs.

And like the 500, there will be a faster tuned version of the AE86 coming to GT7 in the form of the Sprinter Trueno Shuichi Shigeno Edition.

Who is he you may ask?

Well he’s the Author of a little known comic book series called Initial D. :eek:

So there’s that. :D

Back to the regular versions.

Despite its reputation as a drifter, the stock AE86’s have open diffs, but unless you’re drifting it about you’ll rarely notice that.

It’s also a nice touch that they add the speed chime for when you go over 100kph, but if you drive in cockpit cam, that could get annoying for you.

And the designs for it are great too, yeah there’s more Panda designs than actual Pandas, but then you had Advan race livery’s, ‘The Drift King’s’ own daily AE86, the Rolling Guy team from the Tokyo Extreme Racer Series and many more.

It’s remarkable how a normal low power hatchback coupe captured such a massive following, to the point where decently looked after AE86’s sell for MUCH more than what they originally cost.

Example, one clean AE86 with 112K miles on it sold for $40,000 just last year and some have gone for more. :scared:

Compare that to the roughly £8800 it would’ve cost back when it was new over this side of the pond.

Handling was as you’d expect, tad of understeer, then decent grip and rather well behaved.

It terms of price, 25k to pick one up in game is perfect, aside from the dirt cheap GR86 RZ which costs a nicely subtle 8,600CR.

I’ll be definitely picking up all 3 AE86’s in GT7 and trying to create some 200mph Tofu for myself. ;)

Verdict(s) Sleeper :)👍

Next on my to-do list, reads list Actually I’ll skip that one and come back to it later.

So the next car is one that both me and @Pickle_Rick74 campaigned in season 3 of RXGT, The Ford Focus GrB Rally Car.

With obvious inspiration from the real life Focus RallyCross car, the Focus’s 2.0 litre turbo 4 makes almost 540hp sent to all 4 wheels via a 6 speed sequential gearbox.

Of course, no Rallycross car is complete without a solid race livery on it and thanks to Rick, I had quite the livery on mine.

I got the original idea for from the ‘Pennzonic’ split livery’d Nissan GTR Super GT I ran in the past and pitched the idea to Rick of combining the two basic designs you could get on the Focus Rally Car from GT2 into one.

Rick agreed to it, but he added a very good twist to the final design.

If you remember when BAR F1 tried running 2 different livery’s on their cars and got told to jog on by the FIA, you’ll remember that they took the 2 livery’s, applied half of each design to the car and separated them with a zipper line down the middle. :bowdown:

Same principle here and Rick even did a version for himself with the colours opposite to the one he did for me. :D

Here’s the Final Race of Season 3 of RXGT to showcase that design. 😉



Also the guy that finishes 3rd? Turns out he’s quite the heavy hitter as he had 71K Driver Rating at the time so definitely not someone to take lightly. :scared:

While the Focus does have some understeer, you can adjust the torque distribution on the fly to suit your style, 50:50 on launches and 35:65 or 30:70 afterwards.

Yeah Rally cars aren’t for everyone, you do have to be crazy to launch down twisty dirt roads or fly through tight and claustrophobic tarmac country lanes at what feels like warp speed. :crazy:

Happily, we can just hit restart when we crash. :sly:

Verdict: Sleeper 😉👍

Next up, another Gr3 racer in the form of the Ferrari 458 GT3.

And I’ll keep it short, It’s a Beater.

Why? Because like the Huracan GT3, it’s got a tendency to step out on you and like what happens when other instances of ‘stepping out’ occur, it usually ends in bloody tears, shouting and maybe your whole wardrobe getting thrown out the window. :odd:

Ok probably not that far, but pretty close. :lol:

It’s quick, but way too twitchy for a GT/Endurance Racer where consistency is critical.

Verdict: Beater 👎


Next up is one of many Mazda’s in this list and one of the cars you’ll be getting at the start of GT7, either as your first car or as the car you win from the Sunday Cup if what we saw is the Final build of GT7.

The Mazda Demio XD Touring.

A rarity in the Gran Turismo, a Diesel Road car, the only 2 others I can think of are the Mazda Atenza XD L Package and the BMW 120D from GT6.

And that is literally it, every other diesel is in a race car. :eek:

So the Demio, packing a 103hp 1.5 litre turbo diesel 4 banger and going to the front tyres via a 6 speed gearbox.

As with most Diesels, all its power and torque comes down low in the rev range and drops off way before redline so short shifting at the right time is key to getting the most out of it.

Of course with it not being a sporty model and having a heavy diesel engine over the front, it does suffer from understeer, but at least it has a LSD to keep the diesel torque in check.

Now here in GTS where we can’t tune exhausts and such, it does sound uninspiring (No 🤬 Sherlock it’s a diesel.:ouch:), but as a possible 1st car in GT7 it’ll do the job of getting the Sunday Cup done, but again it looks like you can win the Demio from it and then get a sporty exhaust and maybe a more potent turbo on it.;)

But I had fun with it and it’s unique selling point of being a diesel road car in the world of GT does appeal to me.

Curious if that like the VW Bug it has a engine swap option, maybe the Atenza’s bigger diesel engine? :P

Verdict: Sleeper 🙂👍

Next up is another double act, expect they aren’t twins this time.

The Dodge Coronet Super Bee and the Chevrolet Nova built by CHC.

Now this match up illustrates my point that what a difference a good platform makes for getting the most out of a classic muscle car if pure performance is your wish.

The Super Bee has all the features a classic muscle car is loved for.

  • Big V8 Motor
  • 4 Speed close ratio gearbox
  • Open differential
  • Skinny tyres
  • A great list of factory paint options
If you’re cruising or throwing it around for fun then it’s all you ever need from it.

But as an actual racer…

Yeah it needs some new parts. :boggled:

  • Stiffer and lower springs
  • Limited Slip Diff
  • Sticky and wider tyres
  • Longer and more gears
Power and weight are optional upgrades.

Now compare all that work to an admittedly more expensive, but pre built machine in the CHC Chevy Nova.

This is what makes a car like the Nova an appealing option, you get the classic looking throwbacks with none of the classic drawbacks and you cut out the middleman on buying and setting up different parts.

Crucially you also get a sturdier platform to take things even further and faster should one’s appetite for speed not be satisfied.

However with over 730hp from a supercharged V8 from a C6 ZR1, pushing a 1366kg kerbweight, most people will be happy with that. :)

For comparison, the classic Super Bee makes 335hp while weighing over 1500kgs.

Both cars approach the idea of fun from two different views and time periods.

The Super Bee has character, nostalgia and a big ol’ smile while not taking it self seriously.

The Nova has character, usable performance, modern equipment and gives you the option to have fun hooning or drive it seriously.

It’s really a choice of preference, which one would you take?

Verdict: Super Bee, Neutral :)
Verdict: CHC Nova, Sleeper ;)👍

And now on to the last car that wasn’t the COTY of 2021.

The McLaren P1 GTR

With the GT7 car list showing the track only version of the LaFerrari coming to GT7 and the 917 Living Legend standing in for the 918 RSR Concept, We may have our version of The Holy Trinity.

The Holy Trackinty. :P


Where was I? Ah yes the P1 GTR.

Using the same 3.8 litre Turbo V8 + electric motor(s) set up as the normal P1, but less road legal, it makes 986hp, over 80hp more than the road P1’s 903hp.

Weight has been taken down to under 1350kgs from the normal P1’s near 1500kgs and the aerodynamics have been greatly revised.

Of course, all of that still can be undone if you’re a lead footed spanner as it’s still nearly 1000hp going to the rear tyres when all’s said and done. :scared:

You really have to stand on the anchors to slow it down and steady with the throttle through the turns, it doesn’t ask for your full attention, it kicks the door in and grabs you by the collar and demands it. :sly:

The DRS system can be manually operated when minimum steering input is happening, but anything more shuts it down so you end up trying to smooth out slight curves to get the DRS to stay open.

Sounds like a handful right? and at 3.6 million credits it’s an expensive handful at that. :embarrassed:

But that’s only 300k more than the Aston Martin Vulcan, another British Trackday Toy and that is an N Class machine for some reason.

If however we were comparing the two on performance, I’d still take the P1 GTR as the Vulcan IIRC was quite slippery in its handling and you also had to stand hard on its brakes to get it to stop too.

Now in GTS, you’d get more value out of the Aston because of its N Classification as it’s usable in events, but from what i’ve seen on GT7, GrX doesn’t appear to be coming back and VGT’s are given PP ratings like everything and no class designation.

9701FADB-01A7-4406-814D-27CFC1E1ADEE.jpeg

Notice the VGT’s and road cars not having a Group classification and the rest do?

GrX cars could become quite useful in GT7 if that’s the case. :cool:

On the whole, in GTS the P1 GTR is useless as it has nowhere to officially race (Arcade and Online not withstanding.) so it’s essentially a collectors piece, a trophy.


But then again, name another trophy with nearly 1000hp. ;)

Verdict: Neutral

And with that, I can officially write off 2021. :cheers:

And Brap our way into 2022 with a Quad Rotor, 4wd Gr1 prototype in the form of the Mazda LM55 VGT Gr1.

What started as Mazda’s VGT back in GT6 has now got an official Gr1 spec version and if we talk about higher performance limits via tuning, it’s also superior to the normal VGT.

Both have the same Quad Rotor engine (I’m guessing 2.6 litres like the 787B.), the same 4wd system and the same 8 speed gearbox.

But there is some differences, the VGT makes 791hp (according to the GTS Wiki) and weighs 830kgs while the Gr1 homologated version makes 641hp and weighs 880kgs and the gearing on the 8 speed is different too.

As for the Handling, the LM55 still has some of the initial turn-in understeer that we first saw on GT6 after the update which adjusted the camber on many race cars, but it’s still pointy and eager to turn in despite that.

And while the hybrid Gr1’s have a big acceleration advantage over the LM55, a long enough straight allows the LM55 to reel the hybrids in, so it’s the go to choice for tracks with high average speeds like Le Mans or Monza.

But that’s not to say it’s the best choice for Le Mans as the LM55’s Group C predecessor would like a word with you on that. :lol:

Overall, the LM55 is a very user friendly Gr1 machine, just not friendly on your ears if you’re redlining it for too long. :dunce:

Verdict: Sleeper 😉👍

On the subject of cars to get a Gr classification, the most unlikely one of all.

The Bugatti Veryon Gr4. :odd:

Yep, the mad lads actually homologated a Veryon for the same group where you’ll find Peugeots, M4 Beemers, GT86’s and so on, cars you expect to see in GT4 class racing.

So in comes Bugatti with a 2 million credit Hypercar, strips out weight, locks the rear wing up and BoPs the quad turbo 8.0 W16 down to 433hp from nearly 1000 and sells it for not even 25% of its original price. :boggled:

Despite the weight loss, it’s still the heaviest in Gr4 at 1650kgs, but 433hp also makes it the most powerful.

And it retains the 7 speed gearbox and 4wd system from the normal Veryon.

Handling is rather stable if understeery due to the weight, but it’s certainly not a car that’ll bite back if pushed too hard.

If the weight is an issue for you, remember that it plays by Gr4 rules so that means like all Gr4’s you can get the weight down to under a tonne. :drool:

And because it plays by Gr4 rules, it’s also the cheapest Bugatti you can buy at 350k, however you can’t really use it in Manufacturers Cup as that requires a Gr3 car to make Bugatti eligible for it.

Which was actually closer to reality than you might think as in the game files there’s a name entry for a Gr3 version of the Bugatti VGT, which presumably would follow the same treatment as the Peugeot VGT Gr3 with the front driveshaft removed and ballest & Bop’d to match other Gr3’s.

Still if you want a cheap Bugatti, look no further than the Veryon Gr4.

Verdict: Sleeper 😁👍

I’ll keep the review on the Abarth 1500 Biposto Bertone short and say..

Not a car you go racing stock in, but a fantastic collectors piece and the beginnings of the acid trip styling that Bertone would bring back for Alfa Romeo’s B.A.T Cars(Berlina Aerodinamica Tecnica).

Verdict: Neutral(but pick one up.:))

Next up is another double header between 2 Japanese two seater sports cars.

Both are 2015 models, both are FR layouts, both are manuals and both are equipped with 1.5 litre non turbo 4 bangers.

But ones a production car and the other could have been a production car.

They are the Mazda MX-5 Roadster S and the Toyota S-FR.

Now the Mazda has the weight and price advantage at 990kgs and just under 25K to the Toyota’s 1050kgs and 30K price tag.

But the Toyota has an extra 5hp over the Mazda at 133hp to the MX-5’s 128hp and as such the MX-5 only has a tiny advantage on the power to weight ratio.

Both are absolute joys to race, rewarding smooth driving and amplifying even small mistakes with large time losses.

The Toyota had more rear stability, but the MX-5 allowed more fun to be had and easier when wanting to drift.

From the numerous 3 wide battles at Tokyo and the battles at Seaside, both cars to paraphrase @XSquareStickIt “Could be raced 100 times and not get bored of them.”

And I agree with that sentiment. 👍

If you squeak when you walk (Tight with your money.:sly:) then the cheaper & lighter Mazda is the choice, if more power means everything to you then take the Toyota.

Either way you won’t be disappointed with your choice. ;)

But if you have 80k to spend, you could buy a racing version of either car (technically an older MX5 but shhh.) but the power difference here is much greater with the MX5 making nearly 200hp to the Toyota’s 349hp. :D

Verdicts: MX-5: Sleeper 😉👍
SF-R: Sleeper 😉👍

I’ll skip on the NSX GT3 as I didn’t drive that week so I’ll just trust what’s already been said about it being hypersensitive on steering inputs and sliding rear end.

Now the other GT3 car that we drove this week however..

The BMW M6 GT3.

When I started my Sports Mode career with BMW, I went with the M6 GT3 and driving it this week was like reuniting with an old friend. :)

Right from the start, I remembered how I got a hold on the low end torque from the 4.4 turbo V8, how late I could jam on the brakes, how quick I could take certain turns and it became business as usual for me, like I was back racing it at Brands Hatch chasing a Gr3 win.

Kinda like this one. :sly:



And that confidence I had in the car meant I got away with some rather bold overtakes, From passing @RX8 Racer on the outside at Le Mans to an absolutely crazy pass at Bathurst up at the top of the mountain on @XSquareStickIt in the dark.:eek:

Seriously, how the hell did we survive that unscathed?! :scared:

Sure it’s not meme worthy big like the M8 GTE was, but it’s arguably the battle cruiser of Gr3 for its size, but not its weight.

I know Rick didn’t have the greatest luck with the M6 with dropping a wheel in the dirt at Spa, But it just felt right at home for me.

Verdict: Sleeper 😉👍

And 🤬 done at last and ahead of schedule to boot. 😎🍻
 
"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.)


.....When I get bored at work, (it’s not my turn to cook, rig maintenance for the day is done, my second nap AND second workout have been successfully completed, all personal projects have been finished...and we're having a slow day [ which despite me “claiming” South Central Los Angeles, as the community I proudly serve...which isn't exactly false, as I've spent 16 of my 18 years on the job there..] I've recently transferred to East LA ,which although still is somewhat rough....the Hispanics tend to take care of their communities much more than ANY ethnicity in this melting pot we call Los Angeles....not to mention it is steadily gentrifying. And as a result is MUCH SLOWER for call volume than Downtown or South Central....so I tend to have a bit of time on my hands these days....someone needs to create a Gran Turismo application so I can shoot scapes photos and do liveries from my smart device..... anyone, Bueller??)

.... I find myself digitally thumbing through the pages of this thread, reading everyone's reviews. I quoted this post, because I think @XSquareStickIt, this is one of your best reviews that showcases your unique ability to review cars in great detail all while telling an intricate story.



Once upon a bye, before your father's father was born..... I used to read A LOT (that was before I decided to start studying for a promotion about 8 years ago, and I had to redirect my reading time to elaborate mathematical equations, useless facts from our departments library pertaining to policy, and literally hundred's and hundred's of trivial specs for LAFD's fleet of 40+ Fire Engines and Fire Trucks, Helicopters, Water Tenders, ECT., ECT...... all for a written test that lasts about 3 hours). I would have my nose buried in 3 different books at a time ranging from biographies on historical figures, books on modern economics, Essays on ancient global history, geography and geology books, raw scientific reports on climate that you won't find on any mainstream media outlet.... or easily for that matter, and A lot of Stephen king books. I might have struggled all throughout school, and decided to welch entirely on College, but that doesn't mean I'm stupid..... DOES IT???? :lol:


There is no way Square, that you're just an amateur writer. You write waaaaaaaaay too well! Nobody, outside of professionals, writes this way!!





Anyways, what's the plan once GT7 drops? I know it was briefly mentioned a few pages back, but I don't think we ever came to a conclusion. I for one, am working on a couple last reviews (at a snails pace albeit), but once GT7 comes out in 5 day's time.... I'll be dedicating all my Gran Turismo time there (amongst splitting my time with ACC since I've recently, and unexpectedly, have become a SIM-SNOB :yuck:). If an FNG like me has any say-so, I think we should transition to GT7 as soon as practical. The GT7 forum is going to become an internet hotspot for MANY NEW GTP members, and would be good advertisement to bring more new faces into the fold. I for one will be putting a link to the thread, as well as meetup times, in my forum signature.
 
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IF it were up to me (I think it is...? Unless somebody else wants to step up last minute or rise from the grave?), I'd hold off GT7 COTW until a few weeks into the game's release.

Reasons being that I want some time to get an understanding of the game's new physics, FFB, and such, assuming it's been revamped. It's hard to say a car understeers if the entire game's physics engine encourages understeer, you know?

Delaying it for a while also gives players some time to farm credits to buy the cars/ paints they need. Not unless the first few weeks are to be done within beginner's budgets.

I mean, I'm open for discussion and having my mind changed, but not many people are active here on this thread as you can probably already tell.
 
IF it were up to me (I think it is...? Unless somebody else wants to step up last minute or rise from the grave?), I'd hold off GT7 COTW until a few weeks into the game's release.

Reasons being that I want some time to get an understanding of the game's new physics, FFB, and such, assuming it's been revamped. It's hard to say a car understeers if the entire game's physics engine encourages understeer, you know?

Delaying it for a while also gives players some time to farm credits to buy the cars/ paints they need. Not unless the first few weeks are to be done within beginner's budgets.

I mean, I'm open for discussion and having my mind changed, but not many people are active here on this thread as you can probably already tell.
I’d say we talk about it more at the next meet, but I personally don’t mind a 1 or 2 week cool-down/enjoyment period before starting up again.

But like I said, let’s get everyone in a lobby and talk out our options. ;)

I’d consider taking the lead myself, but while my hosting COTW track record for FH3 and FM7 was fine, the reception wasn’t consistent and I had to do a lot of the heavy lifting to try and keep it going and relevant.

Granted it was just time trials, but let’s say i’m not exactly eager to see if third times the charm with the main COTW thread. :lol:
 
I plan on picking it up when I can but I also plan on getting Horizon Forbidden West as well. For me it's been good running GTS COTW but I don't plan on starting up COTW on GT7. This summer I'm going to be busy with my wedding and honeymoon that I'll have limited time to race with you all in July. If anyone wants to step up and start the thread for GT7 feel free to do so but I plan on making Tuesday night races.
 
RX-V got off to a slippery debut. Had that built-in MR Sliiiiide until a quick adjustement to rear brake balance eased the handling. Later, PD updated its performance and the car handles beautifully with no adjustment.

Used the RX-V as an FIA Manu, Nations and “Daily“ driver. Won plenty with it and also lost plenty with it. Most satisfying performances, were at Tokyo versus the F1. At that track, the RX-V has no torque, but it has the legs to keep up and the high speed handling to shame most everything.

For GT7, I’ll have the Stealth model to begin with and we now have the road car, finally. Classic GT tracks to explore with both versions and listen to those rotaries wail. More fun times ahead.
 
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