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I think I know what you mean... (long) (archive)

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Posted by //Andy on October 21, 1999 at 14:24:05:

In Reply to: 328ci/Steptronic test drive: disappointing. Why? posted by Randy G on October 21, 1999 at 01:38:44:

I put about 60000 miles on my first car, an '89 Integra, which I had put a bit of effort getting it to handle as good as possible. It was nicely neutral, with just a little push that suited my driving style at the time.

After wiping out and totaling it, I got a '91 318is. Initially, I didn't think the 318 handled as nicely as the Integra, but after getting used to the differences, I think I could share some insight:

1. Both the Integra and 318is' power steering was okay at street speeds, but way too easy at highway speeds. Both BMW and Honda's speed-sensitive technology has made a huge difference here since these cars were made.

2. The Integra had a more immediate connection with the traction left on the front wheels. It was easier to jerk it into a turn and correct turning in too early by slipping the front wheels a bit. I think this is typical for most FWD cars -- they're easier to drive to a point. Heaven forbid you lose the front wheels' traction, or bring the rear around though, taking your hands and feet off the controls and screaming would be just as effective as trying to correct.

3. The 318 had what seemed like similar stiffness suspension, but a much stiffer body, and obviously liked to oversteer at the limit. Because of that, when I first got the car, warning bells would go off in some situations where I thought it was about to wipe out, but it really wasn't. In the end, once I broke my old habits and reset the warning bells in my head, the 318is ended up being a faster car. You could just push it as far as you wanted, and as long as you kept the rear in place, you were going fast. Even if it got a little out of place, you could put it back with variations in throttle, steering, or combinations thereof. Cool.

Now, earlier this year, at the Ultmate Driving Experience mini-autocrosses BMW put on, I drove an E46 323 and 328 on a short cone course, and I had deja vu all over again. We were carted over to our course in these cars, which, for all the hype I'd heard, and 50 miles ride up there in the M Roadster, were unobtrusive. Sedate. Like my father in law's 99 Accord V6 with the 'family' package. Okay, I thought, still should be more fun than sitting on my can. Then I drove 'em. Hard. When I got toward the limit in those cars, I found there was really a lot more to go. They seem soft and placid, (especially after the roadster ride) but did some extremely nice things at the limit. I think this is where modern BMWs really shine -- the extra potential that most drivers never use, but nutballs like me worship.

Dunno about the Steptronic -- I kind of like the idea and I'd like to try it, but I've seen articles that found it less than helpful for someone who thinks they know better shift points than the computer does. (Me!)

Long and short of it is I like BMWs and Hondas both. But they are different cars, setup differently, and will send you different signals because of it. Try taking a longer ride, or maybe accidentially on purpose hang the rear out a bit on that 328Ci. Fun stuff.

'72 2002 tii
'99 M Roadster
Volvo Wagon -- trying to turn it into an E46...

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