It used to be a bit unusual to see 90s-era European-specification cars come this way. But with the advent of the internet and 25-year-old cars being relatively cheap in other areas of the world, coupled with a current soaring market in the US and nostalgia for easier (they weren’t, but it’s okay to think they were) times, it’s less unusual to see Euro-only models for sale stateside. That’s not the case today; this S6 Avant was available here in nearly identical spec. However, there are a few things interesting on this one and it’s worth taking a look:
While there wasn’t much of a contest between the E28 M5 and E34 535i, by the end of the E34 run the 540i M Sport was – for all intents and purposes – a M5 without the S38. BMW upped the ante to 400 horsepower in the new E39 M5, once again widening the gap to the 540i model. But the successor E60 545i offered 330 horsepower with matching torque in 2003 alongside the outgoing E39 and once again the gap in performance became much smaller. That gap was made almost impercievable in 2005, when BMW revised the E60 with the increased displacement in the N62 motor. Now sporting 4.8 liters from the N62B48, the new “550i” now had 360 horsepower and 361 lb.ft of torque – a much better match for the S62. What was perhaps more amazing was that the new N62 also nearly matched the torque of the new E60 M5’s S85 V10. But while that screaming V10 produced far more horsepower, the peak torque was reached only at 6,100 revolutions – hardly practical in your daily commute. In comparison, peak twist on the N62 came at a much more realistic 3,400 r.p.m.s, and on the fly these 550is were – and still are – seriously quick sedans. They also introduced the next generation of design language and computer technology into the 5-series. Some love the look while others lambaste the design. While it’s certainly not my favorite 5, at least it’s distinctive and different in a world full of cookie-cutter designs and dare I say I think it may look better today than it did new – perhaps a testament to its avant garde lines. While the lust-worthy V10 captures the imagination of enthusiasts, day to day the 550i is likely as fast 95% of the time and much cheaper to get into and run. The thing is, is this the one to get?
While there’s no doubt that the E9x M3 was instantly recognizable as the replacement for the outgoing E46 model, there was an inconvenient truth that had snuck into the lineup: weight. Part of what had made the E30 such a curb-hopping maniac was that lack of heft even with all the accoutrements. By the time the E92 launched, the M3 had put on nearly 800 lbs of weight.
To motivate it the extra mass, BMW did effectively what it had done to create the S14 from the M88; it took its top-tier motor in the S85 V10 and removed two cylinders. The result was the S65 V8 and 414 horsepower was on tap for your right foot’s pleasure. That was a monumental leap from the E46; when the E46 launched with 93 horsepower more than the prior generation, I thought there was no way BMW could do it again. But they did, tacking on 81 horsepower to the prior generation’s total without forced induction. BMW topped the E46’s specific output per liter, too, besting 103 in the E9x – in a package which was 40 lbs lighter despite two more cylinders. Impressive, indeed.
Granted, if you were plunking down $60,000-odd worth of your hard earned credit, you’d want amenities like power seats, a nice radio, air conditioning – the normals that made it a better road car to live with day-to-day. The original purchaser went fairly light on options; it’s got cloth seats, no sunroof, no navigation…in fact, really pretty few options were ticked. But one significant one was; of the 15,799 came to the U.S.. 8,299 of those were post LCI cars like today’s example. 6,235 came as manuals (both pre- and post-LCI). 865 were sent through BMW’s Individual program and painted a variety of colors, and this is one of 43 that were finished in Dakar Yellow.
The 5th edition of the Golf brought a new level of refinement and better build quality over the Mk.4, but performance was relatively unchanged due relatively unchanged power and weight. One thing that did change was that the U.S. bound R32s only came with the DSG automatic gearbox. In a straight drag race and around a track, the DSG was quicker, but is more expensive to run and lost some of the feel of the manual “chuck-ability” of the Mk.4. The real shame with the Mk 5. is that there was a 5-door version and manual option in Europe but VAG opted to not import them. It’s too bad because they might have been a clear challenger to not only hatches but the WRX/Evo crowd. However, one thing is for sure – they’re now cheaper than equivalent 4th generation cars. Today’s 2008 model is represented in Deep Blue Pearl, the signature color for the R32:
Recently I looked at an interesting special-order color Cayman that had a few too many mods in an off-beat color combination to really be desirable:
2007 Porsche Cayman S
Well, I’m back with another odd color combination on a Cayman S, but I think this one is a whole lot more desirable. So let’s check out this Forest Green Metallic over Sand Beige leather 987 S:
For a while, if you were a diesel and wagon fan, you had some options; Volkswagen graced us with a manual TDi Jetta and Golf five-door, Mercedes-Benz floated the E-Class over here, and last but not least was BMW. The F31 launched in 2012, replacing the E91 we just looked at:
2011 BMW 328i xDrive Sports Wagon 6-Speed
It was larger in pretty much every way, but also took on a more aggressive stance. It looked lower and meaner than the E91, especially when outfitted with M equipment. Gone were the manual and six-cylinder options, but you did get the option of selecting even more trim lines and a diesel, to boot. That’s exactly what we have here; a well-optioned 2017 328d xDrive, representing the end of F31 production. As the G21 hasn’t yet arrived and there’s currently no wagon available from BMW, nor are there plans to bring the diesel over yet, this really represents a unique opportunity:
Truth told the E91 isn’t a particularly rare car. There are plenty up for sale every day of the week, and of those that you can find for sale today, the all-wheel drive 328i xDrive isn’t particularly rare, either. But what is not seen very often is the combination of those two factors plus a stick in the center console which can be articulated in 7 different positions. That’s right, we have a unicorn manual! Such is the frequency with which these are referred to by the mythological term, you’d be forgiven for thinking that BMW dealers had a special option box that you could select for your unicorn badge.
Salesman: Now that you’ve selected all your other options, I’m going to tell you about one final “dealer special” option we can offer you – but it’s only for select, and discerning customers!
Rich Plebian: Uh, okay, what is it?
S: It’s the not offered to public “Unicorn” option
RP: “Unicorn”? Like, horned mythological beast?
S: Yes, exactly. The Unicorn Package is option code 785.
RP: Okay, what does it get me?
S: You get to tell everyone how unique your mass produced car is.
RP: Wait, it gives me special powers?
S: No, you just get to say that your car is more special than the other cars that are exactly like it.
RP: Well, people have always told me how special I am, so sign me up!
Thus, when it comes time to sell your unicorn package car, you too can tell everyone that this was the only one that’s like it! Except for the other ones that are like it. But don’t mind them. Let’s look at this one!
Speaking of new(er) cars we don’t cover much on these pages, how about the Panamera? By my reckoning, we’ve never covered one here. They seem quite new, but in reality they’re now over a decade old in the market place, and a funny (and quite predictable) thing happened – they’re now very, very inexpensive. Of course, this is a relative scale, but we’ll get there in a minute.
The Panamera S grabbed the 4.8 V8 from the Cayenne, which was good for 400 horsepower, and stuck it into Porsche’s first attempt at a four-door sedan. Yeah, I’m discounting their involvement in the W124 500E, the RS2, and the Volvo 850, because those were not sold in their dealerships. So we got a hatchback design that sorta looked like a 911 imagined as an ex-collegiate swimmer, and you could have it in typical Porsche style – a ton of configurations and with multiple engine choices. Bottom of the barrel was the V6, top-tier was the twin-turbo V8, with all-wheel drive optional between. Dynamically, these were regarded as good driving cars if not great to look at. And Porsche-quick they were – 0-60 for the S was 4.8 seconds, and the quarter mile was disposed of in 13.3 seconds. Of course you got tons of tech, and in also typical for Porsche-style optional equipment would push the S’s $91,000 base price up towards six-figure territory quickly. But today? Not so much:
Often we ignore really modern cars on these pages. It’s not necessarily that they’re not exciting – often it’s quite the opposite. For me, it’s just that they’re not exciting to see for sale because they’re still effectively cars that you can walk into a dealership and buy. And I’m sorry, while they can thoroughly out-perform older cars in virtually every way, you can’t just walk into an Audi dealer and buy a brand new Quattro, can you?
But impressive these cars are, and if you can look down the road so to speak at having one as a potential special car in the future, you can balance a hefty discount from new with near-new status and have quite a savings over stock, too. When the F8x BMW M3 and M4 launched, they were loud, proud, and…well, large. Park an M4 next to an original M3, and you can nearly hide the entire older model behind the silhouette of the new one. But when the G80 was launched recently, well…suddenly meet the new boss had me looking at the old boss in a new light. And the S55 is still good for 425 horsepower – and it’ll still rip your face off. 0-60 is gone in 4 seconds and it’ll demolish the older generations in a straight line. So let’s check out the signature tone with unique interiors in two very different configurations:
Ahhhhh, the 80s. Tuners in the 80s were pushing the limits of their crafts, redefining performance and styling with cutting-edge technology. Of course, when I say ‘cutting edge’, I literally mean cutting. Take Walter Treser, for example. He not only lopped the top off of a Quattro to create his ‘Roadster’, but he also had at the roofline of the Type 44 to create the hatchback ‘Liner’ model. While Audi was busy sawing Quattros in half and removing about a foot to create their Sport Quattro, Treser went in a different direction. As in, the complete opposite. Apparently not satisfied that the Roadster and Liner were crazy enough, Treser chopped a 200 clean in half, stitched 12.6 inches into the middle of it, and created the ‘Largo’. I presume that the pronunciation is akin to the current President’s (for today, anyway) residence of choice, but all I can see is “Large-Oh”. And large it is. Audi themselves would later create their own Lang version of the V8, but Treser’s version appeared over half a decade earlier. To say they are rare is an understatement of…well, long proportions. But one can by yours today in Florida, if you’re up for a project: