We sometimes get accused of bias in our coverage towards one marque or one model on these pages. Fair enough, I’d fully admit that I’d rather look at another Audi Coupe GT than a BMW 325e. But in the interest of being introspective, I occasionally check up on our coverage to see if we’re doing a balanced job and I’d like to share the results with you. To date this year, we’ve written up 10 Audi related posts, 10 BMW related posts, 9 Volkswagen related posts, and 12 Porsche posts. If we’ve been out-of-balance, it’s been our coverage of Mercedes-Benz models, which account for 26 posts this year so far.
Since our inception, we’ve written 907 Audi posts, 1,963 BMW posts, 1,598 Mercedes-Benz posts, 2,322 Porsche posts and 982 dedicated to Volkswagens. We’re sometimes at the mercy of what’s available at any given time. All things considered, it’s not a bad balance overall.
But one thing did strike me as I put this information together – February has, so far, passed without a BMW gracing our coverage. That simply won’t do, and so I thought I’d check out this M6. The classic E24 lines coupled with the stellar S38 engine and BBS wheels have always been a favorite of mine. Now, this particular M6 is probably not the best one out there I’ll admit up front. But the combination of colors, stance, presentation and asking price all grabbed my attention and made it worth sitting up and taking a further look:
Last month I did a quick history lesson on the W163 Mercedes-Benz ML-Class and how it came to be made in America. One of the most interesting pieces of the ML story also involved another aspect Americans love: wildly fictional movies. If you are looking at this car, you probably know what I’m talking about. Somehow, Mercedes got in contact with Universal Pictures during the filming of The Lost World: Jurassic Park about using the then pre-production ML in the film. Somewhat ironically, while Ford Explorers had replaced Toyota Land Cruisers used in the Jurassic Park novel, in Lost World it would be the Explorer now being replaced. Somehow, a deal came together and suddenly you were watching a couple of ML320s with a bunch of added on armor roam around a fictional world full of dinosaurs. One of the stars of the film, Jeff Goldblum, was given a free ML320 as part of the deal and the craziest part is that he actually used the ML as his daily driver for over 15 years. He must not be into cars that much.
Unlike other vehicles from the Jurassic Park franchise, the Jeep Wrangler and Ford Explorer, you would never see someone hack up a ML320 to replicate the version from the movie. Probably that’s because it wasn’t very smart to totally destroy a luxury SUV just to pay tribute to a film that was considered a letdown compared to the original. Fortunately, prices of first-generation MLs have hit play money type levels and someone in California took the plunge into full movie mode. Now it is up for sale and ready to be passed on to the next person who constantly wants to be stopped to answer questions about it in the grocery store parking lot.
While the last few VWs have been a bit strange in some way or other, each held a specific subset of people absolutely obsessed with them. The same does not seem to be true of today’s Mk.III Jetta GLX VR6, which is strange to me since it has the hallmarks of a potential collector.
Purists decried the arrival of the “grown up” A3 chassis Golf and Vento, sold as the Jetta in North America. It was expensive, it was heavy (relative to the A1 and A2 chassis, anyway) and the performance was dulled – that was, until the introduction of the GLX model that replaced the earlier GLi models. Now sporting the VR6 that had debuted in the Corrado a few years earlier, the GLX was all around a screamer. It might have been heavier than the GLi had been, but it was quicker to 60, quieter on the highway, more comfortable and better in crashes (if things went south), and returned close to the same fuel economy as the thirsty, buzzy and boxy 16V had. The Volkswagen Jetta III, as it was known in the US, was introduced at a time when US sales were at their lowest and it appeared as if VW was considering pulling out of the US market. This generation Jetta became the best selling Volkswagen by the time the production run ceased in 1999. It was insanely popular and seemed to be the defacto college car of choice for both men and women. Because of that, many of these Jettas fell into disrepair or were totaled, so it’s rare to find a lower mile and clean GLX these days:
A few weeks I took a look at one of the most jarring Porsche interiors I have run across with a 1999 911 up for sale in San Diego. It wasn’t so much that the Jade Green was all that ugly, but rather the Burl Wood that was plastered everywhere clashed so much with the Jade and the rest of the interior. Add in the fact that the car is automatic, has 166,000 miles and isn’t priced all that well, you can probably guess what it is still for sale. Most of you in the comments seemed to agree with my thoughts on that 996 as well judging by the reaction that it got. Although one commenter (Thanks JonnyA) passed along another late ’90s Porsche with a green interior that still has loads of green leather, but isn’t nearly as gaudy or off-putting. This 1997 Boxster up for sale outside of Dallas features Nephrite Green leather and even better, has just 8,900 miles. Is this a better option if you still want an inexpensive Porsche with a wild interior?
As I explained back in 2017, towards the end of their lengthy production run, the Volkswagen Cabriolet broke into a three-tier model platform. All shared the same basic underpinnings, but each had a unique trim. The base model and best seller had cloth interiors, with the latter being opted with the ‘Teardop’ Detroit alloys, air conditioning and cruise control. Opting for the upscale Boutique model got you a matching leather interior to your white exterior. These packages had replaced the mid-80s Wolfsburg and Carat packages.
1990 Volkswagen Cabriolet with 23,000 Miles
However, there was a fourth trim model available in 1991; the Étienne Aigner Edition. Étienne Aigner is famed for high fashion leather products aimed specifically at women. So, you guessed it, this Cabriolet featured a cloth interior. As with the other upscale Cabriolets, this was an entirely appearance-based package, full of special details and badges. Étienne Aigners also differentiated themselves from the normal Cabriolets by being equipped with the Fuchs-made forged 14″ Le Castellet wheels and were available in three special colors, Midnight Blue Metallic, Mangrove Green Metallic or Bordeaux Red Pearl Metallic, each with a special color-matched interior fabric and top cover:
A few weeks ago I looked at the Porsche GT3 Touring that was partially launched by Porsche to curb the crazy prices of the 911R on the secondary market. It helped a little, but what really happened is that GT3 Touring prices are still selling for over MSRP and even if they still were in production, your local Porsche dealer wouldn’t give you an allocation unless you were a preferred customer. What a ”preferred customer” is varies dealer by dealer, but basically you get into that club by buying a 918 when they were new or spending lots of money at a dealer by buying lot cars, spending on service, showing up at events and generally being a good customer without raising any stink. If all that failed and you still are looking to get your kicks from something just a little more special, Porsche came up with the 911 Carrera T.
The “T” designation was certainly nothing new, having been launched as a base 6-cylinder model back in the 1960s. The new Carrera T moved more upscale, slotting between the base Carerra and the Carerra S as the lightweight purist option and is basically a mash-up of parts from most of the 911 range. It uses the 370-hp twin-turbocharged flat-six from the base Carerra, adaptive suspension from the GTS, a lowered suspension, thinner glass for the rear window and rear side windows borrowed from the GT3/GT2RS, sport exhaust and the 7-speed manual with PDK as an option. You can load up this car with some other fancy options like those nice $5,200 sport seats, carbon ceramic brakes and rear-wheel steering, but most buyers are signing up for this car because of its slightly-less weight and reasonable price tag compared the rest of the 911 range. The Carrera T is as raw as you are going to get in a 991 without spending at least $175,000 for a GT3 and the good news is, you can actually buy one for sticker.
So I’ll start off by saying that we usually try to find the best examples of cars that we can. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist, or even to have particularly good vision, to note that the Volkswagen Golf in the picture above is NOT the best example out there. In fact, we recently looked at what may be one of the best Mk.3s left out there – albeit an odd one – just a few weeks ago:
Riders Wanted: 1993 Volkswagen Golf Ryder with 31,000 Miles
However, if you know anything about water-cooled VWs, you also know that the car above is quite special. It was not because it had the best spec, or the most power, or the highest price tag; in this case, it was all about the marketing and it’s one of those cases where an oddball becomes incredibly endearing to a very small group of people. If you were to buy this car and turn up at a ‘normal’ automobile enthusiasts’ home, they’d probably think you’d gone mental with your recent purchase. Full of rust and mis-matched panels, as well as likely a lot of miles and even more likely a ruined interior – not to mention what is sure to be a host of mechanical woes – this Golf probably looks to most like it’s ready for the wrecking yard. But turn up at a VW show in this car even in its partially destroyed state and all eyes would be on you, because this is a Golf Harlequin, and in the world of water-cooled, that’s a pretty special thing:
So here’s part one in a trio of strange, yet desirable in their own right, Volkswagens. There are plenty of popular Volkswagens that demand premiums, sometimes inexplicably. These special models have a draw and demand money that makes people laugh. Sure, in the car world, it’s become accepted that vehicles like the 21 window Samba are now $100,000 plus fully restored; however, tell that to my father-in-law, who grew up driving them, and you’ll get nothing but boisterous laughs. Other Volkswagens exhibit charm or were class leaders; the GTi, the Vanagon Westy, the Corrado – stylish in their own ways, with charm to match. Then there’s the Passat. Despite the serious popularity of the B5 and B5.5 chassis, I still feel like I need to explain to people that they’re really quite nice cars. Do you know why?
Mostly it’s because of the reputation of the B3 and B4 Passats. The B4 Passat will certainly not go down in history as the best made, fastest or even prettiest mid-sized Volkswagen. Poor build quality coupled with an unerring tendency of early 90s Volkswagens to rust heavily meant they’re an odd choice for the Volkswagen fan. And when I consider the B4 Passat, all I can think is that it’s arguably the most vanilla Volkswagen ever produced. I praised Volkswagen when they launched the B3; smooth, aerodynamic with a distinctive wedge shape, it looked very different than any other sedan on sale at the time. Most of that distinction came down to the grill-less front end, but regardless it was cool. It was so cool, in fact, that no one got it. Of course, it didn’t help that it was pretty expensive and not particularly reliable in the best trend of early 90s VWs. So it probably came as no surprise when the revised B4 Passat in 1995 went more mainstream. New wheels, mostly new body panels and some minor interior changes signaled its introduction, but that’s not what people sought. No, the big news was under the hood; Volkswagen moved the 1Z 1.9 TDi into the Passat – and behind the headlines of the Vans, Corrados and GTIs, it’s probably the most sought 1990s Volkswagen – especially in 5-speed Variant form:
Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, depending on how you look at it, Mercedes-Benz has only graced the United States market with one AMG estate car. Thankfully, it was more than one generation starting with the S211 E-Class and continuing with the S212 and now up to the current S213. Of course, we got AMGs in every SUV, including a R-Class for whatever reason, but when it comes to regular estate cars, the E-Class was it. No C-Class estates, no CLA shooting brakes and certainly no CLS shooting brakes either. Even with the multiple generations of E wagon AMGs, good luck finding one for a reasonable price as even the most desolate ones still bring close to $30,000.
Today, I came across a really nice W204 C63 AMG Estate up for sale at one of my favorite dealers in Europe that is as clean as all the other cars I feature from them. This 2009 painted in Palladium Silver Metallic has all the right lines and curves to keep that aggressive AMG stance and have future classic written all over it. I just wish they brought them stateside.
Porsche has never been one to shy away from offering a special edition of any of their cars, and that goes double for the 911. It seems as though virtually every few months some new, ultra-limited variant of the GT3, GT2 or Turbo comes splashing into the news feeds and headlines of every German car enthusiast. But occasionally, Porsche does have something important to commemorate, and when it came to 2014 they had a particularly impressive opportunity.
2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the Porsche 911, a car so entrenched in the ethos of sporting automobiles that it’s the mechanical equivalent of the Queen of England. Sure, the 911 hasn’t always been the best, brightest or fastest – but, it’s seemingly always been there and often it has been the superlative. So to celebrate 50 years of production, Porsche introduced a very beautiful and pure example of the 911, devoid of the flash and spoilers that often catch headlines.
Subtle was the key to the 911 50th. It was rear-drive, yet had the wide body from the Carrera 4S. It was lowered 10mm like the GTS, and had different black/chrome accents both front and rear. It wore a variation on the theme of the 2010 Sport Classic’s Fuchs-inspired wheels, here with a machined with black accent finish. Inside a choice of special houndstooth or tartan on the seats, with original 901-inspired gauges and the choice between the excellent PDK dual-clutch 7-speed or a 7-speed manual. Porsche’s Powerkit bumped power up to 430 for good measure, and the outside was draped in Graphite Gray Metallic or the even more gorgeous Geyser Grey Metallic seen here. It made for one stunning package: