Test Drive: 2008 BMW M3

IMG 4285

I test drove a fully loaded 2008 M3 Coupe with a double clutch transmission this past week with Annie. M3’s have always been known as the benchmark for comfort and performance. They’re also getting the reputation of becoming more luxurious and powerful in recent years. But adding all the creature comforts and bigger engines have a price. The 2008 M3 is an incredible sports sedan that does everything well… which makes it kind of a jack-of-all-trades but master of nothing. Don’t get me wrong, it’ll astonish you, but not in the same way a 2006 M3 will.

I walked into the dealership with high expectation, kind of like walking into an highly anticipated movie you’ve been waiting to watch for years. When you put a naturally aspirated V8 (that pumps out 414hp and 295 ft-lbs of torque) into a coupe, you expect to be crushing everything on the road… especially when it’s paired with a dual clutch transmission. The truth of the matter is that when you put your foot down, you don’t get a surge of unexpected uncontrolled savage power.

Some people say that if you change the electronic settings, you can change the entire characteristics of the car. Sure, customization sounds great, but I expect instantaneous performance by default—especially with something that has the M badge. The power is linear, but left me disappointed.

Weight affects everything from handling, braking to acceleration. Let’s look at some weight comparisons between M3s.
2008 M3: 3726 lbs
2006 M3: 3415 lbs
1996 M3: 3175 lbs

The 2008 M3 handles very well, but it seems over-engineered. As a product, the M division have made a series of decisions that have created a snowball effect. Going with a V8 adds more power, but it also adds more weight and requires more fuel (which also adds more weight). More power means you need bigger heavier brakes to stop, which adds more weight. A double clutch transmission makes the car shift much faster, but adds more weight. The list goes on… and when you add it up, you have a very comfortable car that goes very fast, that’s easy to drive…

But, it also feels HEAVY.

The 2008 M3 handles well, but doesn’t seem to punch above its weight class. It just doesn’t seem as insane as the specs make it out to be.

The model I test drove was fully loaded, and it was lush. The comfort is definitely there. The only thing I didn’t like was the seating position—and that’s personal preference. I prefer a lower slung seat; something that’s lower to the ground (like a race car). That being said, for a long 5 hour drive, I’d rather have the M3 seats (or any BMW seats in general). By the way, the back seats and trunk are definitely usable. Big plus there.

Yeh, it’s good looking. The lines are perfect. Yes, the M3 excels in this department.

So as much as I wanted to love the 2008 M3, I can’t. In fact, it represents something that is the complete opposite of what I was hoping for. I expected it to be a more raw, unabridged BMW experience… and that’s where I was left disappointed.

If you want a more pure experience, go for a 2006 M3 (it’s a better value, and frankly a better car). If you want more creature comforts and a huge engine, this is a fine choice. However, my buddy (Tim) recommends that you “get it, strip it, cage it, track it”. And I totally agree.

Test Drive: VW CC 2.0T

DSC 0345

Annie and I rented a Volkswagen CC 2.0 Turbo when we went to California. Surprisingly, this was cheaper than a Mini Cooper (as a rental)!

Given a choice, I’d rather own a BMW 328i or Mercedes C250; however, the VW CC 2.0T probably has the most refined engine and transmission for the money… and makes for a wonderful rental car.

2013 volkswagen cc 20t 20 liter turbocharged inline 4 engine photo 463559 s 1280x782


The specs say the VW CC 2.0T has 200hp / 207lb torque and 0-60 in 6.5s. I’m absolutely convinced that this car delivers 0-60 faster. When the turbos spool up, it feels way faster than Audi A5, BMW 328i and Mercedes Benz C250. That’s probably thanks to the DSG (dual clutch transmission). Shifts are instant and keep the turbos spooled when you need the power.

I’m actually astonished by how much power a turbocharged 4 cylinder can deliver when paired with a dual clutch transmission. I just wished they included paddle shifters on the damn thing. It’s 2014 guys!

EDSC 0069


The brake pedal was as sensitive as all the other German cars I’ve driven. Overall handling was decent, but wasn’t nearly as refined as a BMW or Mercedes. I’d probably say the greatest flaw was the suspension setup. For whatever reason, the car took an extra bounce over bumps. Without proper dampening, I felt less confident around corners.

2012 Volkswagen CC 021


I’ve read some reviews about the back seats being cramped, but I think they’re fine for people under 5’10”. The front seats are spacious and comfy. Personally, I’d like my seats to have more bolstering around my body, but these seats were decent. We drove over 800 miles in a week, and there wasn’t too much fatigue.

CRR 2013 VW CC Sport Plus dashboard 2

I will note that the cabin is loud—for whatever reason, the noise transferred from the tires were way too loud. For that, the VW CC gets low marks.

In addition, the engine and exhaust noise were non-existent. I would have liked a little more of *that* kind of noise. It was hard to tell if I was revving the engine high unless I looked at the dashboard.

2014 Volkswagen CC Rear


I actually think the back of the car looks better than the front. That being said, the car is a little plain in the front. Considering how stylish the Audi’s are, I would have expected VW to push for a sportier style.

2013 volkswagen cc sport plus front three quarter in motion


For the price, the VW CC 2.0T is a decent sports sedan. What it lacks in styling, it makes up in its motor and transmission. I’m not sure if I’d personally want to own this car over an Audi, Benz or BMW, but for the price it’s a fair deal.

If you decide to get this car, get the dual clutch model. Also, you can stick with the 2.0 turbo—it’s plenty of power for the chassis.

I’d seriously consider buying this car if it came with flappy paddle shifters and a nicer front exterior… but at that point, the VW CC would essentially be an S4.

Test Drive: R8 v10

DSC 0049

It’s rare that I get to drive such an exotic car—so, I wanted to thank Vinny for letting me be his designated driver for his wedding.

DSC 0041

There are faster cars out there, but the R8 v10 is probably the true starting point for the word “super car”. It turns heads, it makes nice sounds, and goes very fast. Yes, a 911 Turbo is more expensive, is much faster, and looks great…

But the R8 v10 convertible will make an extraordinary entrance of epic proportions. This *is* the rock star image.

10269056 10152238824312955 1288785574407477224 o


The version I drove had a v10 (the same engine they use in the Lamborgini), with 525hp and 391 lb-ft torque. Pretty much when you put your foot down, you hear all sorts of explosive sounds and enter warp speed. And things start getting *more* insane as you reach 9k RPM… You get a very high pitch whirl—the sound of german precision and engineering. Speaking of sounds, this car makes lovely symphony of burbles, pops and howls… The R8 v10 has the bite to match its bark. The specs say it does 0-60 in 4 seconds, but it feels faster. You hit triple digit speeds in an blink of an eye. Perhaps it’s only down fall is its transmission—the automatic version I drove was sluggish and harsh. Other than that, you’ll probably need to get a GTR or sport bike to keep up with this bad boy.

10259096 10152238831787955 572773045179205471 o


Yep, it handles. Being a mid engine, it stays balanced and feels well planted. After you accelerate, the second thing you notice is how strong the brakes are. You literally feel like you hit a wall when you want to stop. So feather the brakes gently.

Whether you’re stopping, turning or accelerating, you always feel like your pulling G’s. Handling on this car is superb, and the ride isn’t as harsh as you would imagine. The car is well dampened and can corner like it’s on rails.

10273342 10152238823237955 3060972644069212660 o


Surprisingly, the R8 is comfortable place. The cabin is compact, but put the top down everything seems to feel right. I could easily see myself carving the twists for hours in this car with little fatigue. However, I couldn’t see myself commuting in it as an every day car. It’s really for weekend thrills.

One annoying thing about the car was that radio always wanted to turn on when we started the car. I’m not sure if that’s how it’s supposed to work, but this car does not need a radio. LOL.

DSC 0040


Everything about this car is designed to attract attention… from the design, to the sounds. Literally, Vinny and I were getting thumbs up gestures from everyone left and right. Going to refill on gas was a huge ordeal as well, with people bombarding you with questions. Pretty much every stranger on the street yelled out “nice car”. Even a homeless guy asked us for a ride.

Styling on the outside is phenomenal. My only critique on the inside is that it looks a little dated, and some of the buttons are in weird places. I accidentally engaged a couple of features while I was resting my hand near the shifter. Oops.

10431308 10152238839572955 8422987764471643999 o


The R8 v10 is designed to crush 24/7. It turns heads. It’ll get you laid. And you’ll probably lose your license. If you don’t like that sound of that, this is not the car for you.

If you want something flashy, have a thirst for speed, and have really deep pockets, then this is a great value. It’s also a driver’s car, so be warned, it’s addicting. Very, very addicting. It’s a head turner, and you’ll feel like a celebrity anywhere you go.

Thanks Vinny, for the opportunity to check the R8 off my bucket list. It was epic!

Test Drive: 2014 BMW 535 and 550 Series

IMG 2042

The 5 series is known as the “executive” car. Lots of reviews out there claim that the new 5 series is boring, soulless and mundane. There is some truth to that notion, but then again, it’s targeted towards a different market. If you want more spirit, you’ll have to either go for a M or something smaller. Nonetheless, what the 5 series lacks in soul and pure driving experience, it makes up in comfort and practicality.

IMG 2032

Yes, it’s a large sedan and there are a lot of options to choose from: 528i, 535i, 535d, 550i and the M5. There’s also a gran turismo version as well as a Xdrive option. The question is, which one is the sweet spot between value, performance and practicality? This past weekend, I drove the 535i and the 550i. In a nutshell, I would lean towards the 550i. It’s a big step up from the 535i, in terms of power, and it’s a tiny step down from the M5. It’s something you can drive every day, and for the occasional spirited run, you have something exciting.

IMG 2044

Let’s just cut to the chase—the 535i gets the job done with its turbo inline 6. Yes, you can accelerate plenty fast, but there isn’t a moment where you say “wow” because of the power. For car enthusiasts, the 535i will feel under powered. The 5 series is a heavy sedan and needs more than 300hp/300lb torque. The engine is always working a little harder than it should in order to get up to speed.

On the other hand, the 550 is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Power (445hp/480lb torque) feels like it’s available at any RPM thanks to it’s turbo V8. Let me emphasize that again—TURBO V8. The power is borderline savage… The brochure says 0-60 in 4.3s—that’s the same speed as a stock 2014 Porsche 911 S. It’s not a Porsche killer, but g’damn, it’s a sleeper. When you put your foot down, it’ll pin you and your passengers. The power is astronomical, yet the car can be driven in a civilized way.

IMG 2045

Both the cars I drove shared an 8 speed automatic transmission, all season tires, the M competition package, and X-drive. Both cars felt the same around corners, bumps and braking. The automatic transmission made it easy to shift gears, but there is a little latency. That latency is slightly amplified by a minuscule amount of turbo lag in both cars. Overall, the 5 Series feels well planted and handles like a small car.

The biggest flaw is the electric steering feel—you definitely feel disconnected from the ground. The steering wheel provides little to no feedback of the road surface. When people say the 5 series lacks soul, I think the root comes from the electric steering. Without any feedback coming through the steering wheel, it’s very hard to make any corrections. You’ll have to rely on your other senses… including your 6th. The 5 series steering makes you feel like you’re flying a plane, as opposed to be connected. In that respect, the 5 sadly gets low marks.

IMG 2043

The 5 series is the “Ultimate Comfort Machine”. You could drive for hours on any kind of road surface, and it just soaks it all up. After test driving numerous cars, I have to say that BMW probably makes some of the best seats in the business. The back seats are just as comfy. There’s plenty of head, leg, arm, and hip room. Everything is snug without being tight. People who drive a 5 series enjoy the finer things in life, and probably would never take a coach seat (even on a short flight). You could say that the 5 series says that the driver lives a more affluent lifestyle.

Oh by the way, the 5 is also super quiet… and that makes conversations with passengers enjoyable. It also makes the music sound better. The BMW is very refined when it comes to comfort and ergonomics. Even the cup holders are in smart places. Based on my experience with the 535 and 550, I think it’s safe to say that any of cars in the 5 series lineup will be a champion of comfort.

5S gallery 0008 9

The 2014 5 series has often been described as a “small 7 series”. This claim is very true, both on the exterior and in the interior. Is the 5 series beautiful to look at? I think the design is elegant, sophisticated and modern. I would say that the interior is probably one of my favorites at the moment. The interior styling feels perfect. The 5 won’t turn heads, but then again, I don’t think it’s designed to draw attention. To me, the styling is a huge improvement over the last generation of 5’s.

Screen Shot 2013 12 23 at 12 46 56 PM

In my humble opinion, the 535i is a wonderful sedan that does an exceptional job of comfort. It, however, lacks authenticity that you’d expect in a BMW. If you want better handling, power to weight, and value, go for a 335i instead. Otherwise, the 535i lacks the power to really elevate the experience you’ve always anticipated. In short, it’s too heavy.

If you want a serious BMW experience, get the 550i. It’s much cheaper than the M5 (approximately $30k less), and provides ridiculous amounts of power… yet the car feels balanced. The 550i with X-drive is so good that I’d have to consider it as a candidate for my next car. It does almost everything well. As I get older, I find myself wanting less noise and knife-edge thrills. Instead, I want more comfort and privacy… and the 550 is truly a “sports sedan” that blends all the right things together. The 550i won’t start conversations or turn heads, but damn it’s one hell of a car… and when you need to smoke the guy in the 335i, you’ve got the juice.

Test Drive: 2014 Lexus IS350 F Sport

IMG 1481

The Lexus IS350 F Sport is a wild contrast of the best and worst things you can find in a performance sedan. The new 2014 model is an impressive leap forward, putting it ahead of the new BMW 335i in terms of performance, interior and reliability. Unfortunately, the exterior styling and price turn me off.


This car has a new suspension setup that compliments the power. The IS350 F has a v6 that delivers a silky 306hp. Could have more power? Sure. But honestly, 306 HP feels like plenty to throw the car around. The power is adequate, and more importantly, balanced.

Lexus is f sport 2014 gallery is 1367 1280x800


What can I say, this mid size sedan handles like a coupe. It feels like it’s on rails and is well planted to the asphalt. The car’s handling is on par with a BMW M3. Steering and overall feel is direct, precise and balanced. It’s a mid sized sedan that feels like a small Coupe. The car is nimble and responsive, yet very comfortable. The car gets better as you go faster.

Lexus is f sport 2014 gallery is 1388 1280x800


The IS350 F Sport really shines in this department. I used to think that BMW made some of the best seats in the business, but Lexus has made a huge improvement in overall comfort. The seats are comfortable—the front two seats have nice side bolsters that huge your body from top to bottom—they feel almost custom fit. They’re that good. I also really-really like the new dashboard. They’ve pulled the styling cue from the LFA, and it just looks sexy. It’s got one of the most refined interiors for a car that’s under 50k. You feel special when you get in the driver’s seat.

IMG 1482


So this is the part where everything goes sour. For some people, they don’t care about the exterior and want a luxury performance sedan. For the price, I expect better styling. I know that the designers tried something new and bold, but the car really looks like it was modeled off the Predator. Don’t get me wrong, I love that movie, but I’m not sure if I’d call this a beautiful car. The lines are excessive and the shape lacks continuity. For me, the exterior doesn’t do the interior and performance justice.



The performance, handling and comfort of this car makes it a legit sports sedan. But damn, the styling and price makes the car hard to defend. When you pay that kind of money for a car, you expect some better styling. I’m not saying I want something conservative… but I definitely don’t want to drive a car that resembles the predator.

If you don’t care about the exterior and have deep pockets, this could be the car for you. Yes, people will probably judge your taste, but anyone who’s ever driven the new IS will know that it is the real deal. If you want something better looking, you may want to consider an Audi S4.

Test Drive: 2013 Infiniti G37

G37 2

I drove a G35 several years ago, and in a nutshell, the G37 feels exactly the same. Pretty much the handling, style, and power feels identical to its predecessor. Yes, there are refinements, but the new G37 is hanging on to the same winning formula. This is a great thing if you love an even balance between luxury, performance and reliability.

2013 infiniti g37 side view photo

With 330 hp, the power is silky and linear thanks to its six cylinder naturally aspirated engine. This engine is really the star if the car. They’re still made in Japan, and they’ll last forever. On paper, the g37 goes 0 to 60 in 5.2 seconds. Just to give you some context, a BMW 335i goes 0 to 60 in 4.7s. For the record, I don’t believe the G37 is all about speed, though it has some. The power is delivered linearly, so it doesn’t have a strong pull initially… but it’s smooth.

2013 infiniti g37 coupe 2 door journey rwd side exterior view 100406236 l

The G37 coupe doesn’t feel nimble. It feels more like a large sedan… And that’s because, in reality, it really is a sedan. While the coupe may have a more sporty aesthetic, the exterior is built on top of a mid-size sedan chassis. The G37 coupe handles fairly well, but feels more like a big car. The car feels heavy, weighed down by tons of features. While it’s RWD, I’m not sure if I’d want to take this car around corners too quickly.

2008 infiniti g37 coupe interior photo 319058 s 1280x782

This is where the G37 really excels. When you first get in the car it feels very special. Even that old analog clock looks nice as a center console embellishment. There are so many features that make the car so comfortable—in fact, there are too many to list. Just know that a fully loaded G37 really means “fully loaded”.

2013 infiniti g37 sedan front angle photo

Design changes are small and incremental since the G35. I’d say that the exterior is fair, but the interior is awesome. Frankly, I think that the nissan Altima coupe looks the same. Which brings me to my conclusion…

G37 1

The G37 is an all-around satisfactory sports coupe. It excels in luxury and reliability. While adequately powered, it doesn’t feel as nimble. The reality is that this car favors comfort over raw performance. That’s why I’d recommend getting the sedan version instead. It’s the same car, and becomes even more practical with 4 doors. When you combine all those strengths, you’ve got one of the best sedans in the business.

An alternative to the G37 coupe is the Nissan Altima Coupe—it looks and feels pretty much the same. It may not have all the luxury, but it’s virtually identical in spirit.