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  #1  
Old 31-08-2007, 01:39 PM
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c_w c_w is offline
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Default Z3M Coupe lookback; Autocar, April 2006

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Old 31-08-2007, 01:51 PM
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Nice work c_w, looks like your scanner is working overtime! Do you have the Evo review from 005?

Cheers
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Old 31-08-2007, 01:53 PM
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Thanks hehe

Unfortunately I don't have many EVO magazines; is that Issue 005? I'll have a look as I did used to buy it quite regularly when it first came out.
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Old 31-08-2007, 02:07 PM
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Yea it says in 'The Knowledge' in the back of Evo that it was reviewed in Issue '005 R'. I just cant find any info on what they said about it, other than when they had a MC as a Long Term test car in 2002, where they rave about it!

See the link to their long term test issues below:

Evo's M Coupe Long Term Test Reviews

I don't think their online car reviews go back as far as 005 unfortunately!

Last edited by vs60t5se; 31-08-2007 at 02:09 PM.
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Old 31-08-2007, 02:12 PM
wfarrell wfarrell is offline
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If i recall correctly, the first Evo Z3MC review (issue 5) wasn't too complimentary, the author prefering the traditional M-saloon charms of an E30 M3.

Later (2001-ish) the diminutive Richard Meaden had a silver S54 for a long term test. Despite ongoing reservations regarding the chassis' capability, Meaden warmed to the ZM's character and performance. Overall, thumbs up :-)
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Old 03-09-2007, 05:54 PM
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Just looked on eBay under BMW M Coupe and found two copies of Evo advertised, numbers 43 and 45. 43 being a shootout between 'Honda NSX,Porsche, TVR, BMW M Coupe, Corvette' and 45 including a 6 page buyers guide to the M Coupe & M Roadster?

Any of you Evo fans have these copies that you could scan in?

Cheers
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Old 04-09-2007, 08:22 AM
SilentBob SilentBob is offline
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I have the issues of Evo with the long term tests and the group test you mention with the 911 and vette. Will have a go at scanning them in tonight.

Bob
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Old 04-09-2007, 09:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SilentBob View Post
I have the issues of Evo with the long term tests and the group test you mention with the 911 and vette. Will have a go at scanning them in tonight.

Bob
That would be great!!!
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Old 04-09-2007, 12:41 PM
ZiggyCol ZiggyCol is offline
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Default Evo articles - long post Part I

I own the very car that Evo ran on long term test. I've accumulated the following from various Evo publications . . . .


BMW M Coupe (Aug 2001)

A few days after our latest recruit to evo's long-term fast fleet arrived, a report landed on my desk announcing the winners of the 'International Engine of the Year 2001' awards. You want to know, don't you? Well, in third place was the Volkswagen group's 1.4-litre TDi engine (A2, VW Lupo, etc), second was BMW's 1.8-litre Valvetronic (318i Compact) but in first place was the 3.2-litre unit from the M3 and M Coupe, which, according to the judges, offered the perfect blend of speed, efficiency, refinement and drivability. Naturally we now feel duty-bound to embark on our own investigation and report on whether the awards committee was right. (Interestingly our regular road tester, David Vivian, reckons there's a real difference between the M3 and M Coupe versions of the same engine, apart from the 13bhp deficit in the M Coupe, which sounds to me like a very good excuse to get another M3 in again...)
Seems the M Coupe still divides opinion – mention its name and you're never sure what response you're going to get. While there are plenty who reckon it's one of BMW's best cars for evo types, others get very upset and reckon it should never have got past the drawing board. It's mainly the shape that doubters get upset about – they can't forgive it for looking so odd, pointing out it's the first car in history to be modelled on an old-fashioned running shoe. Well, I'm sorry, but there's nothing wrong with being individual. Especially if you happen to have the world's best engine up front, driving the rear wheels, in a very compact bodyshell, as anyone who actually drives the car will testify.
Our car looks particularly tasty in silver, with an all-black leather interior in place of the dubious two-tone leather option (it's even got cruise control and a top grade stereo system) so it wins full points for presentation before it turns a wheel. And turning a wheel was something it had done quite a lot even before it turned up outside Evo Towers for the first time; in the two weeks it had been on the road since it was first registered it had covered a whopping 2250 miles.
The cabin is really tiny compared with conventional cars. If you're over 6ft the electrically operated seat runners will hit the buffers before your legs really want them to and the steering wheel is not adjustable at all, but I've already completed several long hauls and comfort hasn't been a problem so I guess you just adjust to what's on offer. What you soon realise is there's very little storage space to shove clutter in; the glove box is just big enough to take yet another oversize BMW manual.
We're nit picking here. The M Coupe has already proved to be a hugely popular addition to the fleet and should be turning up at some of our evo Active days (see News) so you'll be able to have a ride in it as well.



BMW M Coupe (Sep 2001)

Having finally wrestled the M Coupe's keys from Harry's limpet-like grip, the last few weeks have been a real pleasure. The oddball Bee Em is a genuinely special car, especially finished in silver with an all-black interior, and it still makes me smile as I walk nonchalantly up to it, thumb the remote locking button and slide into one of the most individual cars on the road.
One of the first duties the M Coupe and I performed was attending an evo Active day at Bedford Autodrome. There was a fine selection of machinery present in the baking sunshine, including the usual gaggle of Caterhams, a couple of Strathcarrons, a spectacularly sideways 911 GT3 and an Impreza 22B on slicks. To my surprise there was also another M Coupe which, judging by the brake dust on its wheels, had clearly done a few laps before I arrived. According to its owner the stoppers are no match for hard circuit work.
Sure enough, three laps of the 3.6-mile GT circuit later, Y952 NBL's middle pedal goes alarmingly squishy. Disappointing for a car with such obvious sporting pretensions. Taking it easy for the rest of the afternoon, I rely on the slow-in-loads-of-smoke-and-opposite-lock-out technique. All great fun until a muted pop from the rear and a slight vibration force us to head to the paddock. Foolishly I had neglected to increase the tyre pressures to cope with such a hot day, and the right-hand rear tread pays the price. Stupid, stupid, stupid. The M Coupe now wears two spanking new rear Michelin Pilot Sports (at a fearsome £189 a piece), which I fully intend to pump-up and deflate religiously before and after each track day.
Although it's a long way from needing a service, I visited my local BMW dealer to replace the puncture repair mousse, which we used to rescue the 205 GTI in last month's cover story. Helpful, friendly and efficient, Sycamore's of Peterborough ordered the parts (£43.55) and delivered them within a week. When the M Coupe's service lights starts to blink I know where I'll be happy to take it.



BMW M Coupe (Nov 2001)

I usually relish the M Coupe's more hirsute handling attributes, but after inadvertently having a huge moment in it a few weeks back, I've begun to treat it with a bit more respect – especially now that the roads are getting more slippery.
I was making a fast, third-gear exit from a roundabout onto a dual carriageway, young Bovingdon in the passenger seat nursing a sackful of quarter pounders for the evo night- shift, when the M Coupe's hitherto hunkered-down tail snapped around in vicious fashion. Only a hasty McFlurry of opposite lock saved us from burying the Beemer's beak into the barriers.
I wouldn't have minded, but I hadn't touched the ASR traction control button. Subsequent experimentation has revealed that the system reins things in smartly at low speed but is slow to react to the 3.2-litre motor's ample power at higher speeds in slick conditions. Consequently you can find yourself looking out of the side window unexpectedly. Roll on winter. Not.
In a masochistic way, though, this is the essence of M Coupe motoring. It's raw, rough-edged and mighty, mighty quick. Its chassis is certainly crude in comparison to the iron-fisted M3, but there's a lot to be said for a car that keeps you on your toes. There isn't another evo long-termer I'd rather be running.


BMW M Coupe (Jan 2002)

With the M Coupe fresh from its first service it seemed a shame to leave it languishing in Stansted's long-stay car park for a week while we all headed for Italy and our annual eCOTY extravaganza. So it was all the more impressive to discover that despite spending prolonged periods in 500bhp+ supercars like the Zonda, Ruf and Murciélago, when I returned to the Bee-Em it still felt genuinely fast.
The contrast with the M3 was also fascinating. Though slightly down on power compared with the 3-series, the M Coupe feels more urgent (probably largely because it weighs 150kg less), but the engine also feels gruffer and more aggressive. Not quite sure why, but it certainly makes the M Coupe more of a sheer event to drive than the exceptionally talented but rather less in-yer-face M3. I wonder how the M Coupe would have faired at eCOTY?
I've commented before on the slow-reacting traction control system, and as the mornings and evenings become increasingly cold and damp, the M Coupe takes an increasingly steady right foot and an alert pair of hands to keep on the straight and narrow. You certainly don't feel free to squeeze more than half throttle out of a corner unless you're in fourth gear. Even Chee, evo's most timid and feather-footed wheelman, has had the Coupe's tail out of line (unintentionally).
Fuel economy continues to impress, with 25mpg easily attainable if you reserve the adrenalin-pumping rush from 6000–8000rpm for very special occasions. Even if you drive with a lead foot you'll be unlucky to get less than 22mpg. Amazing.
Sadly, I think I'll be returning to Sycamores in the near future as the air-conditioning system is finding it increasingly difficult to demist the windows. A quick feel around the vents revealed that those directing air onto the screen don't appear to open. I fear a dashboard-out fix is inevitable, but if anyone can effect a fix it's Sycamores. I'll let you know next month.
Words/Pictures: Richard Meaden



BMW M Coupe (April 2002)

After a frustrating week or so of inactivity for the M Coupe while I waited for a set of Conti SportContacts to arrive, it's been great to get back into the groove. During the last month or so the hairy-arsed BMW had been getting increasingly unruly, even though the original Michelins were still (barely) legal, so it was a relief to feel the front-end bite through the slimy February road gloop and turn in with renewed conviction. I'm frankly amazed how long the front Michelins lasted, as they have never been changed, surviving 20,000 miles of enthusiastic road driving and a track outing at Bedford Autodrome that literally blew one of the rears to shreds. Still, at £650 for a fresh set of boots, I'm glad to say the new Contis are likely to outlive our tenure with the car. I'll let you know how they compare with the Pilot Sports over my final few months with Y952 NBL.
Being reunited with the M Coupe after an enforced break also highlighted its relative crudeness. Noisier, livelier and far more of a handful than any other current BMW, the M Coupe is a much rawer experience than you'd expect. In fact it's quite similar to a TVR; that fabulously aggressive straight-six dominating the whole experience.
I'm now happily resigned to the fact that I'll never become blasé about the 'Running Shoe's' sheer pace, even after stepping out of Mr Barker's ridiculously rapid Evo VII RS Sprint. Though I doubt there's a huge amount between the two in straight-line speed, the way they deliver is completely different. The Evo's frantic, short-geared lunges for the horizon are utterly alien to the M Coupe's indulgent rev-range and endless third gear that punches you well into three figures. In fact I'd always thought the M Coupe encouraged me to drive like an arse all the time, but after the full-on RS Sprint I can happily snick the Bee Em into fifth gear and luxuriate in the amazing flexibility of the M Power straight-six. Smug? Me? You bet!
Words/Pictures: Richard Meaden


BMW M Coupe - Final Report

I have to confess that when Harry informed me we were getting an M Coupe on long-term test back in June last year, I wondered why we were bothering. At that time the BMW to have was clearly the then-new E46 M3, not this curious coupe. Cut to the present day and, after eleven months and 24,000 miles behind the wheel, I stand corrected and now regard the M Coupe as a cruelly overlooked and underrated car.
Despite only serving on the BMW press fleet for a fortnight before being dispatched to evo, Y952NBL had racked up some 2250 miles in numerous journalists' grubby mitts. This punishing two-week stint did nothing to harm the lustrous silver paint, supple black leather interior or crackling M Power straight-six. In fact if anything I suspect the brutal 'running-in' period contributed to the M Coupe's astonishing turn of speed.
Initial gripes were minimal; most centred on the driving position which suffered from a non-adjustable steering wheel and a lack of rearward seat travel. Not that my jockey-like 4ft 6in frame ever challenged the seat runners.
Unsurprisingly, all who drove the 325bhp M Coupe heaped praise on its ballistic performance which, despite being touted as the most accelerative BMW ever, still exceeded expectations. Nothing on the evo Fast Fleet could match it for sheer, savage, neck-yanking go. The 3.2-litre engine's extended rev-range allowed you to get well into three figures in third gear alone, but thanks to the M Coupe's comparatively low weight and a good spread of torque, you didn't have to hammer it into the redline to experience quasi-supercar shove.
It wasn't long before the call of the track lured me to Bedford Autodrome for an evoactive session on the awesome Gran Turismo circuit. It was here that the M Coupe's major failing came to light, namely the brakes, which completely wilted after three laps. From a manufacturer with such a sporting pedigree the stoppers really should have been stronger. No wonder some owners resort to fitting Porsche stoppers from the 993 Turbo.
Not content with cooking the brakes, I also blew the tread clean off the left rear tyre. A result of neglect (and some gratuitous showing-off) it served as a £378 reminder to always adjust your tyre pressures for hot weather and circuit work. The financial pain ensured I wouldn't sacrifice another pair of rear Michelins to laziness.
As the summer months passed and the nights closed in, the M Coupe's hairier handling traits became more apparent. Always grippy and incisive on bone-dry tarmac, the broad-arched tail was less happy dealing with the cold and wet. Even with the ASR switched on it was still possible to have heart-stopping sideways moments, especially across mid-corner surface changes. The ASR system was good at reigning-in excess power at low speed in first or second gears, but at higher speed in third or even fourth the time it took to react to the wheelspin and the spike in lateral g was enough to let the tail get well out of line. You soon learned that respect was most definitely due.
Despite the enthusiastic use, it took 14,325 miles for the red service light to flicker into life, at which point I booked the M into my local BMW dealer, Sycamore of Peterborough. Not only did they take the car in at the last minute, they also gave it a thorough valet. Better still, thanks to a change in standard oil specification by the factory, NBL's sump was refreshed with new oil under warranty. Having psyched myself up for a wallet bashing, I could scarcely believe my luck when presented with a bill for a faintly absurd £35.67.
Tyre bills were rather more scary. We got through two pairs of rears and a pair of fronts - that's £1073 worth - during our time with the car. If we'd had it any longer I'm sure this expenditure would have become a more effective form of traction control. At least the fuel consumption was some compensation. I saw a best of 26mpg on a long motorway run, while even banzai B-road work struggled to dip it below 22mpg. Not bad for a big, high-revving six-cylinder. Shame the small tank limited range to a couple of hundred miles.
Faults were few and far between for most of our loan period. In fact apart from a freak incident where the power steering reservoir lid came adrift and allowed much of the fluid to escape (fortunately Andy Morgan noticed the problem and stopped before any harm was done), the M Coupe never made an unscheduled stop at a dealer. The air-con had a brief phase of misting rather than de-misting, but seemingly sorted itself out soon after. Now that's German efficiency. However, by the time the car went back, we were staring down the barrel of a large bill, as the clutch was showing signs of major wear and the brake pads were Rizla thin. With a new clutch costing £471 fitted and replacement pads another £243 it was lucky for the evo coffers that BMW came to collect the car before another visit to Sycamore.
Just prior to Christmas we took the entire Fast Fleet for a thrash across the North York moors. We all drove each other's cars, including guest drivers Tony Bailey and David Yu. Both were loyal to their own steeds, as you'd expect, but the M Coupe was next on their list of personal favourites.
It also did well in issue 43's cover story, where it took on a Porsche Carrera 4S, TVR Tuscan S, Honda NSX and Corvette ZO6. Though pitched in way over its price tag, it proved to offer most of the performance and charisma of its esteemed combatants for a fraction of the price.
All of which makes you wonder why the M Coupe has sold so dismally. Granted it's anathema to BMW's more mainstream brand values, but it's the brashness and roughneck dynamics that make it a truly memorable experience in a way the more accomplished M3 can't begin to match. What's more, there are enough dependable BMW genes in the mix to ensure you can live with it as a day-to-day prospect without any qualms. Perhaps when BMW finally gives it the chop, the M Coupe will get the recognition it deserves.
Words/Pictures: Richard Meaden

Date acquired June 2001
Duration of test 11 months
Total mileage: 25,819
Average consumption 24.1mpg
Servicing costs £35.67
Consumables (tyres, oil, etc)£1073.23 (6 tyres)
Extra Costs £43.55 (tyre mousse)
Price new £36,000
Trade-in value £26,000
Depreciation £10,000
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Old 04-09-2007, 12:43 PM
ZiggyCol ZiggyCol is offline
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Default Part II

May 2002
M Coupe v Corvette ZO6 v NSX v Carrera 4S v Tuscan S

Honda and Porsche have fought for the junior supercar crown before. Now the new NSX and the brilliant Carrera 4S rejoin battle, and they're joined by three brutally quick rivals – TVR Tuscan S, Corvette Z06 and BMW M Coupe – on some of Britain's finest driving roads
Wide of arch and aggressive of stance, the C4S is the latest in the prolific line of new-generation 911s. A mouth-watering amalgam of 911 Turbo girth, normally-aspirated flat-six muscle, all-wheel drive and a host of detail changes including 10mm lower sports suspension and enlarged brakes, the C4S could just be the pick of the current Porsche line-up. It is also the axis around which we've assembled a fantastic, fascinating and highly eclectic group of similarly super coupes. Honda's freshly revised and price-reduced NSX, TVR's voracious but versatile Tuscan S, BMW's madcap M Coupe and, a bit of a wildcard this, Chevrolet's mighty Corvette ZO6. Say hello to the 'sensible supercars'.
Every one of them is fiercely powerful, surprisingly livable and so utterly individual in character that at this stage it's impossible to guess how they'll shake out. The venue, as is so often the case when we've got a really special collection of cars to test, is north Wales. Regular readers will be well aware of our predilection for the roads around Denbigh and Betws-y-coed, but for those newcomers amongst you, we return time and again because it is home to the most exciting, most challenging, and most lightly trafficked roads in Britain.
Memories are made of tests like this, and they start with my drive from evo's Wollaston HQ to our unofficial Welsh office, the Royal Oak Hotel in Betws-y-coed. Typically I aim for a mid-afternoon departure, but end up splashing out of our car park just before five o'clock. Still, if there's ever a 170mph sports car you can simply jump in and drive, it's the C4S. Our test car is fitted with a pair of optional leather-trimmed, fixed-back race seats, complete with harness slots.
Together with the dry rasp of a similarly optional sports exhaust, this C4S isn't what I was expecting. Perhaps my judgement has been coloured by memories of the 993 C4S; a real tart's handbag of a 911 that spoiled the sublime 993 Carrera 4's clean lines and incisive chassis for the sake of wide-bodied vanity. Clearly the '02 model is a different proposition altogether.
The drive to Wales is a slog. Heavy traffic, heavier rain and a typically unfathomable Meaden route plan equate to a three-and-three-quarter-hour marathon. The Porsche's ability to mop up the motorway miles with the minimum of fuss is impressive, and so too is the way it perks me up once we steer off the three-lane stuff and onto the fast, dark A and B-roads. The conditions are pretty treacherous and I'm getting tired, so the PSM stability system stays on. But such is the C4S's surefootedness in the sodden conditions that the electronics never feel the need to intervene.
While I've been squelching my way up from Northamptonshire, Roger Green, armed with a Vauxhall Vivano van and Brian James trailer, has been working his way across from Manchester hauling one of the very few Corvette ZO6s in the UK behind him. It's been loaned to us by US import specialists Bauer Millett, and although they're happy for us to enjoy it to the full, we have agreed to keep the mileage down by sparing it the wasted miles to and from Wales. Hence the van and trailer. No such luck for TVR's hard-worked, wickedly black Tuscan S press car, which 'fresh' from a hammering by Channel 5's Fifth Gear team is being driven down from Blackpool by evo's equally abused new-boy gofer, Ian Lain.
Clearly driving with the urgency of a man with the scent of free beer in his nostrils, Green is first to arrive in Betws-y-coed. He has unloaded the Vette, stashed the trailer and blown the froth off a few bottles of Becks before the arrival of yours truly. Lain arrives shortly after, followed some hours later by John Barker who has slithered his way from home to the Royal Oak in evo's long-term M Coupe. A hastily consumed pint of Speckled Hen just about finishes him off, and we call it a day with the prospect of the early morning arrival of photographer Gus Gregory, and John Hayman in the eagerly awaited new-look NSX.
Predictably we wake at 7am to the strains of Gus whistling cheerily in the car park. He left home at 3:30am, which just isn't natural, but as hardened veterans of the punishing 'Gus o'clock' start, we less hardened souls stumble blearily downstairs for a hearty breakfast.
Fed and watered, we head for the Llanberis Pass. It's a typically fast, winding route, and JB is keen to have a crack in the C4S. I on the other hand decide to start the day in my old friend, the M Coupe. Having lived with it for some nine months and nearly 20,000 miles, I've come to appreciate its stunning turn of speed and grotesquely muscular looks, but I'm also well aware that I've learned to live with its crude chassis and twitchy wet-road behaviour. After his late night dash, Mr Barker clearly hasn't.
'The M Coupe is very surface-sensitive,' he observes when we stop later. 'The drive over in the wet and the dark was quite wearing, and on a couple of occasions I was glad of those patches of emery cloth-like Shell Grip they use on tricky corners. Those semi-trailing rear arms really are a throwback and kind of dissuaded me from pushing hard through high-speed corners.'
Remembering my own journey in the C4S puts the M's shortcomings into focus within the first few miles back in the Beemer. Even moderate use of the throttle on the wet tarmac kicks the M's tail loose and brings the rather clumsy ESP stability control juddering into life. You need your wits about you certainly, but crude underpinnings or not, the steering is ultra-direct and quicker reacting than the much-lauded M3, with plenty of feel from the front end and strong resistance to understeer. Perhaps because you sit so far back, you're much more aware of when the rear-end is getting lively, not to mention the structure flexing under the strain, but you do get used to it given time.
One aspect of the car that never diminishes with familiarity is the engine, and its ability to fire the M Coupe towards the horizon like an unusually shaped artillery shell. It really is a magnificent motor, made all the more vibrant by the BMW's lithe build and the five-speed 'box's keenly spaced gear ratios. Whatever the gear, any throttle input whatsoever delivers a real kick in the kidneys. At just £36,000 the M Coupe's price tag is a little undernourished in this company, but when a car looks and goes with such drama you can't exclude it for being cheap.
Gus has his tracking shots in the can, so we saddle up and retrace our steps back to Betws-y-coed then beyond, peeling off the A5 towards Denbigh. It seems like a good moment to have my first proper go in the Corvette. On first acquaintance it's difficult to know what to expect. It's also difficult not to be cynical with something this big and brash, but the ZO6 deserves respect, as it's a far more serious tool than prejudice would have you believe. Available only in hardtop, six-speed manual form, it also has thinner glass, lightweight magnesium wheels and a titanium exhaust. Oh, and a 5.7-litre, 405bhp V8. It might be a wildcard entry, but the Chevy means business.
The Corvette's bodywork is like a vast, undulating, glassfibre landscape. Great from some angles, heavy-handed from others, it oozes machismo. The stance is different to a regular C5 Vette's, especially at the rear, where it sits higher than you'd expect, but from the width of the track and the acres of Goodyear Eagle F1 rubber you know it's going to generate some serious lateral g.
It feels a big, broad car from the moment you get in, a feeling enhanced by the big steering wheel and wide, wide expanse of windscreen. The instruments are clear and attractive, and as you turn the ignition key each needle sweeps its dial in a dramatic 'systems check'. Shame then that the plastics don't possess the tactile or visual quality you'd expect of a £50,000 car.
However, when you're pinned to your seat by raw accelerative g, plastic quality is the last thing on your mind. It really does have the most ridiculous levels of grunt. In fact I don't think I've ever experienced a car with so much any- gear, any-revs response; if you wanted you could simply slot it into fourth gear and leave it there. Happy to chunter through town at 30mph, the Vette then likes nothing better than to hook itself onto the 911's tail and torment it as 3.6-litres of unsuspecting German flat-six attempts to run away and hide from 5.7-litres of roaring Yank V8. With Barker at the Z06's wheel it soon got a taste for M Coupe, too, as a somewhat surprised Roger Green discovered.
'I was amazed to see the large yellow nose fill the rear-view mirror of the M Coupe,' said Rog. 'Through a long fast right-hander I expected to see it fall back, but not only did it stay put, it went past down the following straight!'
As Rog hinted from the cockpit of the BMW, the improvement in the ZO6's chassis over the standard Corvette is as impressive as its ballistic speed. Predictably it has masses of road holding, but it also has feel, composure and a modicum of mid-corner adjustability, something lesser Vettes lack. Dr Barker, having just administered a large dose of humiliation to the rest of our convoy, makes his diagnosis of the ZO6's dynamics.
'Grip levels are very strong, so you can learn to trust it and lean on it. Its brakes are superb, too, the best here with a wonderfully feelsome pedal that gives bite right from the top of its travel and doesn't induce chassis squirm, even on very bumpy corner entries. I'd say this points to a well-sorted detail suspension set-up and a much stiffer structure than other Vettes.
'It's a bit wide, though, a bit big for British B-roads, and there's still that feeling that there's a bit of lateral sproing over bumpy, fast roads, as if there's more give sideways than vertically, though it probably seems more uncomfortable because you're sitting on the wrong side.'
We've now been joined by John Hayman in a very blue NSX. Though initially nonplussed by the new-look headlights, which have an unfortunate way of bringing to mind the Mitsubishi 3000GT, it doesn't take long to fall in love with the rakish Honda's looks. Now with more aggressively styled wheels and neater detailing, the NSX is more eye-catching than ever. It even vies for attention with the menacing Tuscan S. Inside it looks the same as ever, which is good as far as quality goes but bad when it comes to disguising its advancing age.
The glassy cockpit has a very cab-forward feel, especially after peering over the endless acreage of the Corvette's bonnet. Sat low and laid back, you immediately feel how different the mid-engined NSX is to any of the other cars here. The pedals and gearshift are light and deliciously precise, while the exquisitely vocal VTEC V6's parched, prickly yowl proves the engine is still a gem. There have been some chassis changes too, with stiffer front springs and thicker rear anti-roll bar, together with 17in wheels all-round (the old car had 16s at the front), in an effort to increase body control and reduce the old car's tendency to roll into oversteer. Some magic has obviously been worked, for even self-confessed Porsche addict Hayman is utterly smitten.
'I adore 911s, but I'd forgotten how very close the NSX is to perfection. That fantastic wail between 6000 and 7000rpm stands the hairs on the back of my neck to attention, and the gearchange is undoubtedly one of the finest ever. Look at the power figures and you could be tricked into thinking the NSX is old, dated and slow. Until you drive it...
'It covers ground at an astonishing speed that defies the horsepower figures. The more I pressed on, the more I was impressed. In fact it's only let down by the slight vagueness of the steering. I'd love to own an NSX, but would I choose one over a 911? If I had my sensible 'badge means nothing' head on, and just focussed on how much I enjoyed driving it, I probably would.' Blimey.
It's odd, but the first time any of us drives the NSX we all hate the steering, but once into the groove it annoys less and less. Okay, so it is too slow and heavy in outright terms, but you soon accept that the steering accurately dictates the optimum pace at which the NSX can be driven. Push too hard on the way into a corner, provoke a bit of understeer, and you need to reach for an uncomfortable extra quarter-turn of lock to get the nose turned in. Likewise if you're brutal on the exit and need to contain oversteer, the weight and slowness of the steering discourages you from beasting it again. Stay neat and work all four tyres to their optimum, and the NSX flows with addictive ease and precision. A dozen years down the line, it's still a class act.
You won't encounter a greater contrast than jumping from the NSX to the TVR. Bursting with pent-up, pointy urgency, hair-trigger throttle response and uncensored feedback, the Tuscan S is completely hyper: a four-wheeled amphetamine rush after the mellow, restrained precision of the Honda. None of us has driven the Tuscan S before although we've all got lots of experience in the broadly similar 'Red Rose' model that preceeded it. Familiarity, however, does nothing to reduce the shock value of the TVR's looks.
'One of the best sports car shapes ever, with an interior to match,' says Barker. 'A fabulous thing to roll out of your garage on a bright Sunday morning,' adds Green, clearly fantasising about finding one behind his up-and-over door.
Quite simply none of the other cars can compete with the TVR when it comes to generating pure, visceral lust, nor as it turns out for raw speed. With 400bhp and just 1100kg to haul around, it is explosively quick, quicker even than the rocket-sled ZO6. The chassis tweaks seem to have given the S a smidgen more feel in the damp compared with the Red Rose version – which was one of TVR's objectives – but it remains the least tolerant, most intimidating car in the test. That's to be expected with no driver aids whatsoever and a healthy surplus of power, but tramlining and general unruliness under heavy braking remains a real problem, despite geometry changes and stiffer spring and damper rates aimed at quelling such behaviour.
It's often as revealing to follow a car being driven hard as it is actually to experience it from the driver's seat, and I have just such a demonstration while tagging along in the C4S behind JB, who's on a mission in the Tuscan. He's really on it: braking deep into the corners and getting back on the power as early as he dares, jabbing pre-emptive corrections at the oversteer and playing with the throttle to keep things tidy, then exploring every inch of its travel and exploding away on the straights. It's a terrific sight, but he's clearly got a fight on his hands. Though savagely fast between the corners, the Tuscan's tail gets horribly unsettled under hard braking. This raggedness lingers into the heart of the corner, and valuable time is lost grappling for directional stability – a great shame as the brakes are exceptionally powerful and feelsome. If only the chassis would let you use them properly. Over to a flushed JB.
'The chassis is all over the place under bumpy braking. It doesn't put you at ease. There's lots of grip, and the steering is super-sharp but the rear end is rather wandery at the best of times, so going really fast takes a leap of faith and a belief in your ability to sort things out. It's not as oversteery as you might imagine but, like the Tamora, it takes a bit of throttle commitment and neat gathering-up if you're not to fishtail. It's probably the fastest thing here but it's a hairy ride if you're trying to make its performance advantage really stick. This is hardcore. Question is, are you up to it?'
Err, from what I'm witnessing I'd rather not answer that. What I will say is that, outgunned though it is down the straights, the C4S feels like it's connected to the Tuscan by an invisible bungee cord. At the merest whiff of a corner the 911 steals back every last inch of ground lost to the TVR's sheer poke, braking later, harder and with so much more stability, I feel like a fraud. Speed shed, it then deploys every last ounce of power with such poise it could almost be on slick tyres, and with such nuggety feel you have 100 per cent confidence in what the car is doing, how hard you're pushing it, and what it has in reserve. The best current-generation 911? I certainly think so. Having stepped directly from the TVR to C4S, so does Barker.
'It's a bit sneaky of Porsche GB to order the press car with fixed-back racing seats and the sports exhaust, but there's no escaping the fact that the C4S has a sublime chassis. The board-like front end that blights the stock 996 has gone and there's not too much grip from the Turbo-size tyres. This is a 911 that feels keyed into the road like the very best, a car you feel a part of, that has progressive reactions, delicacy and poise which encourage you to exploit it.
'It doesn't feel obviously four-wheel drive, but then these 911s never do, and it doesn't feel obviously tail-heavy either. Only over sharp, cresty corners, or powering very hard out of tight turns do you feel the chassis squirm and take clear attitude. I like the looks, too. The previous C4S was a poseur's 911, a wide-body version that wasn't the better for it dynamically. This one is less obvious and much better. It's the best current 911 as far as I'm concerned.'
Green concurs: 'Over these roads it is the quickest of the group and the easiest to drive at that pace, but it's still very satisfying. It's aggressively priced and there's a waiting list already starting. Expect it to continue growing.
'As boring as it might be to read, there's no way you could argue against this silver 911 winning yet another evo group test,' Roger concludes, nailing his Stuttgart colours to the mast.
As you've no doubt guessed by now, it's a clear win for the Carrera 4S, but what of the opposition? Well, of the ZO6, M Coupe and Tuscan S it seems almost churlish to mark any of them down. The Corvette's case is hardest to argue simply because it is left-hand drive, import-only and, at least as far as the interior quality is concerned, not worth £50,000. That said, it has pace and presence in abundance, the reassurance of 100,000-mile major service intervals and a chassis that proves the Americans can get things right when they put their minds to it. The M Coupe was included purely on the basis that it punches way beyond its fiscal weight, and for that we love it, warts and all. Crude but effective, it's a special car. And the TVR, dynamically flawed though it is, trips every irrational, emotion-led switch in your body with its irresistible combination of visual and aural drama and no-holds barred delivery. I know its shortcomings, but I still want one so much it hurts. Let's just say that they all finish joint third.
All of which leaves the NSX in a solid second position. The latest tweaks have revitalised the now 12-year-old Honda. It is a deceptively quick car. Never raw and in-yer-face but seriously effective and superbly engineered. And after suffering a decade of jibes about its price, that £10k price cut now makes it look like remarkably good value. As John Barker ponders, 'Had the new NSX been against the current stock 911, the verdict would have been much closer. What a bugger for Honda, then, that the C4S has come along and moved the game on.'
The year is still young, but the C4S has an ominously good feel about it. evo Car of the Year 2002? Don't bet against it.
Words/Pictures: Richard Meaden/Gus Gregory
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Col N.
Life is not a rehearsal !

Porsche Cayenne S
ex Audi S4 Avant
ex 2001 S54 Titanium, Black
ex Porsche 968
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