The Reason We Drive
The Reason We Drive
“Life is too short to drive boring cars” Anonymous
I recently was fortunate enough to acquire what has been my dream car for about eight years – a 2013 E93 M3 in Space Gray Metallic. And after six months of ownership, it got me to thinking about the emotional attachment we have with our chosen machines. Why do some grab us in certain ways? Why do others affect us in other, very different ways? Why do we typically dislike the standard “gets me from A-B” “cookie cutter” cars? Well, I’ll tell you my story. I am sure you have yours.
I fell in love with the E9X series when I purchased my 2008 335i (named DREI – German for “three.” I’m apparently not very creative) way back in 2011. My income bracket didn’t (and still doesn’t) really enable me buying BMWs new, at least for the number of BMWs I apparently want to own – I currently have five. (Yes, I have a problem). That car now has 187K on the odometer and I have enjoyed the heck out of it for the past ten years. The N54 engine is a lot of fun and reasonably reliable once you proactively replace some key parts and stay ahead on the maintenance. But I yearned for the M3 version of my car. It was more aggressive looking. It was a true M Car (before they started watering the brand down with putting “M-sport” and the ///M emblem on everything strictly as a marketing tool – but that’s a whole other article). It had a naturally aspirated V8 that was inspired by BMW engines from their foray into F1 (now likely to be BMW’s last *ever* NA V8). But I’d never driven one, and I know that sometimes it isn’t good to meet your heroes. In this case, it absolutely was. From the trepidatious test drive at the dealer to now, six months later, the experience was both wonderfully familiar (since I had an E93 335i) and viscerally different (because of the engine and dynamic differences between the cars). In truth, I was kind of worried I wouldn’t fall in love with it, but it was the driving *experience* that won me over. The sound of the V8, the way it delivers power very differently than the 335 (or my 135i N55 powered track car), the way the suspension feels and sets in corners. A relationship was born. I know it is technically underpowered now, compared to the more modern M cars. That’s the nature of progress. As I mentioned in a previous article (https://bmw-club-psr.org/zundfolge/2022/04/two-days-in-the-desert/ ), I got to drive the latest M2CS, M4CS, and M5CS on the track in Palm Springs this year. They were incredible machines. But they still don’t “do it” for me for a daily driver or road tour experience like the M3 does. And it’s not a manual thing (I know I may lose the dedicated “save the manual” reading audience at this point – stay with me). I like the DCT. I can loaf in traffic in auto, or have some fun with the paddles. I know how to use and enjoy a manual, but on this car, the DCT really works for me. And, the fact that the M3 and my track car have the same transmission naturally got me thinking about how I feel about the driving experience of the two machines. Don’t get me wrong, I love EINS, my track car. I wrote a Bimmerlife article about it (https://bimmerlife.com/publications/2022-spring-summer-pr/ ). But in my mind, it is a fun precision tool, not really a car I relate with in the same emotional way I do with the M3. The track car is tauter, more focused, about the same HP and definitely more torquey. But I don’t connect with it like I do with the M3. For those who don’t know, the S65 engine in the M3 is a high-revver, maxxing out at 8200 RPM. It generates about 400 HP but only 300 TQ. It’s actually quite lethargic below 3K (the N54 and N55 are definitely not!) But after that, it is like it comes alive in every way. I smile every time I roll on the power going up an onramp. We named this car, too. Well, my wife named it - “Gonzo” because of the hood bump and its resemblance to the prominent schnoz on the beloved Muppets character. The hood bump is not cosmetic, BTW - the engine would not fit if it didn’t have the bump. It’s functional. In a world of cars with fake vents, fake splitters, fake wings, and fake engine noise, form following function has a special appeal to me. Especially in an era where we have gone so far that high end car manufacturers are getting away with “Turbo” labels on EV’s (looking at you, Porsche!). Just another appeal of this “last of breed” M Car to me.
So what really makes Gonzo special? It’s so hard to quantify in words. I do understand the E30 M3 and 2002 fanatics much better now. I also imagine many of you have similar experiences with a particular car you have or had. Because we are car people. We emotionally connect with cars. It is really the reason we drive – it’s not just to get from point A to B. After pondering the situation, I think the best way I can sum it up is this: I can envision selling every other car I own. But I can’t envision ever selling Gonzo. It isn’t a stepping stone to something better. It is the “better” to me. Even if it is several generations behind the current crop. So, if you haven’t found your Gonzo (or Gonzos…you can love multiple cars - unlike polygamy, it’s legal), keep looking. Life is too short to drive boring, uninspiring cars that we don’t connect with emotionally. <insert naturally aspirated German V8 revving to 8k sound here>