Do not adjust your screen. This is not a test. Yes, a BMW X1 is appearing on these pages. But, please stick with me because I’ll explain why.
When the X1 arrived, I – probably like you – considered it a bit of an affront to the brand. Following in the footsteps of the mission-drift but popular X5 and X3 models, the X1 made a fair amount of sense from a marketing standpoint. For about the same money as a loaded Subaru Outback, you could get an (arguably) better looking and performing BMW, after all. So the X1 opened BMW up to a whole new market as the least expensive option in their catalog.
I’ll admit, when they arrived I even went and drove one with my wife. We were considering replacing her…yup, Subaru Outback, and since the Outback’s build quality had proven so abysmal it was hard to get on board with throwing $30,000 at one. But for about two grand more, you could get into a basic X1 xDrive28i, and it really was a nicer car in just about every way.
We didn’t go down that route, as it turned out, for better or worse. And four years on, I’m not sure that the first generation X1 aged all that well. It received an update in the 2012 model year which made it slightly more slick-looking, but the proportions are still fairly awkward. So why is it here? Because it was also one of the best BMWs you could buy.
Underneath the rather upright body was the chassis borrowed more or less straight from the E91 Sport Wagon. But the E84 X1 had a few trumps over the 328i. Like the E91, you had two engine choices. “28i” models got the N20 turbo four rated at a pretty amazing 241 horsepower with 258 lb.ft of torque, or you could get what you see here. In the “35i” there was a N55 turbocharged inline-6 with 300 horsepower and 300 lb.ft of torque at the same time that engine choice wasn’t an option for the wagon fans. So if you wanted a fast BMW wagon, here it is:
In yesterday’s Corrado SLC post, I referenced both how Volkswagen’s coupe was another attempt to create the “poor man’s Porsche”. Of course, at the same time that VW was perfecting its craft with arguably the best of their front-drive creations in the Corrado with the VR6 in the nose, Porsche wasn’t exactly napping at the wheel. They, too, had perfected their own pauper Porsche. The problem was, of course, that not many paupers could afford it.
The 968 stormed out of the gates and straight into the early 1990s recession wielding 236 horsepower from its VarioCam-equipped development of the 3.0 inline-4 from the 944S2. Evolutionary bodywork linked the model more closely with both the 928S4/GT and the 911 range. But with more power on tap than the standard 944 Turbo had in the mid-eighties, the base price was pretty much out of reach for most mortals. In 1992, the MSRP was $39,950 for a stripper Coupe. If you wanted the Cabriolet, you’d pay more than $10,000 additional. And if you opted for a Tiptronic transmission you’d be at $55,000. In 1992, mind you! That’s over $100,000 in today’s buying power and nearly double what a base 718 Boxster stickers for today. Even the basic Coupe in 1992 was double the sticker price of the 968 hardtop.
That made the Corrado a lot more compelling to consider in period, even with the 968’s stellar poise and road manners. It’s no surprise, then, that Porsche only managed to sell 2,234 968 Coupes here – compared to over 14,000 944 Turbos imported. A bulk of the Coupes, 1811, were 6-speed manuals, thankfully. But as we discovered yesterday, just because they were really expensive when new doesn’t mean that holds true today:
Update 9/13/18: This M3 sold for $19,201
While it was the E30 M3 that I lusted over as a young teen, I came of driving age with the introduction of the second generation E36. I still remember sitting in one just like today’s; a 1995 Avus Blue with gray manual Vaders. At nearly $40,000, it was about as far away from me as the moon landing, but it was my dream car. I didn’t really care that the engine wasn’t the special individual throttle body motor Europe got, or that the headlights weren’t as nice. I cared that it was in the U.S., it was a great color, and because they were being sold that meant that I might be able to get one some day.
Fast forward to today, and if I’m completely honest Avus Blue isn’t my favorite color from the early M3 lineup anymore. Given the option, I’d take either a Dakar Yellow or Daytona Violet example. But all three are fairly rare to see among the first 10,000-odd 3.0 M3s brought in before the light revision to the 3.2, when the color pallet changed. Few appear in the low-mileage, completely original condition of this particular Avus Blue and for me it’s a reminder of everything I loved the first time I saw it:
Although the United States is one of the most important market for its sales, the 944S2 is a case where a majority of the cars sold were “Rest of World” examples. Total S2 production was 19,945 units, and of those about 6,036 came to North America. When you compare that to the 944 Turbo, 25,107 were built with 14,235 sold in the United States alone. Typically, the European versions of the 80s cars we look at had more power, but that was not the case for the S2. The M44.41 was a world engine, meaning it was only available with catalyst and rated at 207 horsepower (211 according to Porsche, although that’s the motor’s PS rating rather than HP). So what did a “ROW” 944S2 get you? Well, the shorter and lighter rear bumper treatment for one, side indicators just ahead of the rub strips, and in front you got integrated dual fog lights/driving lights rather than the fog/dummy setup on U.S. cars. In the case of this particular ’89, you also got the option for a really neat Studio cloth interior:
Like the Volkswagen Cabrio, the 944S2 Cabriolet isn’t a car that gets a lot of press on these pages. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the makings of a classic. Like the Cabrio, it sold in small numbers in the tight times of the early 1990s; Porsche claims it sold only 2,386 in the United States. And it has a potent power plant in the revised 3.0 16V inline-4; pushing 207 horsepower and 208 lb.ft of torque, it was nearly as potent as the first generation Turbo without the inherent lag or accompanying bills. Yet it shared the same perfect weight balance with the rear-mounted transaxle, Turbo brakes and larger roll bars along with the integrated Turbo-look nose and tail. The S2 also received the new “Design 90” wheels that helped to bring it in line with late 928S4 and 964 models.
However, the 944S2 Cabriolet has always been overshadowed. First, for the sporting drivers out there, most will be seeking the clean lines of the S2 Coupe. Then there is always the more popular 911 Cabriolet, but it’s real competition is the later 968 Cabriolet. With more power, revised looks and a 6-speed manual, those late 968s are by most accounts the ones to get. But to me, that means that a clean 944S2 is a better value while offering you most of the experience of the VarioCam. Let’s consider this beautiful LM3U Velvet Red Metallic example:
So you want an affordable, distinctive yet practical car for your daily commute? Yesterday I suggested there might be more fun to be had for less money than the Golf Harlequin. Well, here it is: the Z3 3.0i Coupe. While the ‘clownshoe’ isn’t quite as spacious as the Golf, it does add a dose of practicality to a fun-to-drive and very unusual package. But while the market focuses on the M products, the more rare to find Z3 3.0i is an affordable option that will help you stand apart from the crowd.
Produced in Spartanburg in February 2002, this Topaz Blue Metallic example has seen better days, it’s got quite a few miles, and it’s an automatic. But that means it’ll be about as cheap as a clownshoe comes. Is it worth the price of admission – or, at the very least, is it worth the savings over a M?
The majority if the time I check out a Mercedes-Benz W126 it is either a 560SEL or a 300SD. For good reason though as if you wanted the ultimate luxury car short of Rolls-Royce/Bentley, you went with the 560SEL. If you wanted a car to literally last you a generation, you bought the OM617-powered 300SD. But if you wanted a compromise of both models, Mercedes gave you that option towards the end of the W126 life-span from 1988 to 1991 with the 300SE. It was the tried-and-true M103 3.0 inline-6 paired to a standard wheelbase sedan that saved you over $20,000 if you selected the 300SE for $53,000 versus the $74,000 you would have paid for the 560SEL. Now that the majority of these cars are sneaking up on 30 years-old, you don’t often see them in really nice condition. Fortunately, this example painted in the rare Willow Green up for bid in Connecticut is in really nice condition and probably won’t cost you a ton of money either.
Buying any used car carries some sort of risk and gamble. Probably even more so with a used German car because of the potential disaster that some cars may bring. The majority of the time, you trust yourself to form an opinion if the car is worth it based off what you understand and what the seller is telling you about the car. Most of the time this works out pretty well for both parties involved. Generally as the stakes get higher and the cars get more expensive, the more due diligence is done with research and inspections. Sometimes you can sniff out a car pretty quickly but other times you might need a really keen eye to see what is really going on. For today’s car, a 1991 Mercedes-Benz 300CE for in Brooklyn, maybe isn’t all that is presented to be by the seller. Let me explain why.
A few weeks ago I checked a wonderful Signal Red Mercedes-Benz 560SEC. I explained that on some Mercedes, red looks pretty good and suits the car well. Other cars, like sedans, red is a pretty tough sell for me. Encase you haven’t noticed by now, this 1991 300E that I am looking at today is painted in that same Signal Red. It is a very clean W124 that has under 100,000 miles and I really dislike it. Let me tell you why.
I’m going to continue on the M3 theme, and again we’re looking at a ’95. Just the other day, I pointed out how the E36 M3 – even in ‘diluted’ USA form – was a great value for a driver-oriented enthusiast compared to the E30 M3. But that’s not true of all E36s. There’s the Canadian M3 – essentially, a Euro import with all the verboten goodies we didn’t get here, one of which we saw sell last year for $65,000. There the M3 GT, which also upped the ‘special’ quotient quite a bit on the mass-produced M, and also will cost you a pretty penny. But for U.S. specification collectors, there’s really only one option in the E36 catalog: the Lightweight.
Over the past few years I’ve written up several of these cars as speculation has continued to grow that this will be the next logical step in market capital following the E30. Asking prices have been, at times, what most would consider outrageous for the E36. But never quite this outrageous. I hope you’re sitting down, swallow and move the drink away from your computer. Consider yourself warned.