"The value of life can be measured by how
many times your soul has been deeply stirred."
I'm a seriously
afflicted car nut. I probably got hooked on cars when
a neighbor got a Pontiac Firebird in 1969. Or it may
have been when one of my father's friends came over in a
brand new, silver 1969 Porsche 911T. There was just something
about cars like those that stoked my imagination. I
was fascinated by the articles on cars in Popular Mechanics
magazine. Then the movie LeMans came out in
1971 with Steve McQueen. Now it wasn't just about the
cars, it was about the people, the drama and the zeal with
which car people lived.
Any chance that I might have moved on to
more acceptable recreational pursuits was doomed when I saw
my first issue of Car and Driver magazine. They wrote
stories about exotic machines like the Lamborghini Muira.
When I saw a Muira in the flesh, I just new I was one of the
lucky ones to be able to appreciate the scintillating shriek
of the peaky V12 engine.
Alas, I have yet to experience the thrill
of driving any of the truly exotic machines, built by men
who understand something I can only sense. But I've
had a few interesting cars.
November 2008. After
the lease (finally!) expired on the
2006 BMW 330i, I bought a car that seemed unlikely in
light of my recent history: the 2008 Volkswagen GTI.
The GTI is the sporty version of the Rabbit and is the
Volkswagen adaptation of the
Audi A3. Having had both the GTI and the A3, I can
honestly say I prefer the GTI. It's quick, nimble,
solid, roomy, economical...and just plain fun. Because
the GTI powertrain and suspension is essentially the same as
the Audi A3, it drives very much like the A3. But it
is somehow a little less crude and a little more sporty.
It may sound odd to say that a VW feels less crude than its
Audi counterpart, but that's just how it feels to me.
2006. Shortly after getting a
2006 Audi A3, my wife
traded her '99 Land Rover Discovery on a 2006 BMW 330i -
this is the new E90 body-style that made its debut in 2005
as a 2006 model. I drive the BMW and Stephanie
drives the Audi. After a year with the two new cars, I
am looking forward to the expiration of the lease on the BMW
so I can get back into a 2004 or 2005 330i ZHP. It just
drives right. The driving experience in the newer car
is, oddly enough, diminished by its "improvements."
Sorry Bimmer fans, I just can't warm up to this car.
That's not to say that there is anything wrong with it, it's
just not as spry, eager and satisfying as the prior
generation of 3 series BMWs were.
In a lapse of common sense, I traded my 2004 "ZHP" on a
Audi A3 2.0T. The Audi is a very cool car. It
has a turbo-charged 2.0 liter engine that puts out 200 HP
and an unbelievable amount of torque for a 4-banger
- 207 lb. ft. at only 1800 RPM. But the real heart of
the A3 is an incredible transmission marketed by Audi as the DSG (direct
sequential gearbox), which was
developed by Borg-Warner. The DSG is
essentially two manual 3-speed gearboxes with two wet clutches that are actuated by
computer controlled servos. The computer perfectly
matches engine revs as it shifts up and down and engages the
next gear in a fraction of the time of a traditional automatic or
manual transmission. This technology grew out of Formula 1 racing
and its application to the road-going, turbocharged Audi A3
October 2004. The car I
wish I still had...this is a 2004 BMW
330i with the performance package, also known as the ZHP
package - the ZHP moniker is derived from the
manufacturer's ordering code for the performance package
I took this from the top level of the Bank of America parking deck shortly after I bought the car.
This is another angle from the same location.
A few months later, I shot this behind the Centura building on Providence Road.
The ZHP engine upgrades
aggressive cams, revised engine software and more open
exhaust, gaining 10 horsepower over the standard 330i for a total of 235 at
6000 RPM. The drivetrain enhancements include a six-speed manual
transmission with short throw shift linkage and a lower
final-drive ratio (3.07 vs. 2.93). The
suspension was tweaked by by BMW's Motorsports Division and
includes firmer shocks, springs and bushings, larger
anti-roll bars, 18 inch wheels (style M-135) and low profile tires
(225/40/18 front and 255/35/18 rear). The body
received some visual and functional enhancements, including
the M-Technik front fascia with open brake-cooling ducts,
side moldings, rear diffuser and trunk-lid spoiler. The interior is purposefully outfitted with machined
aluminum accents and an alcantara (synthetic suede)
wrapped steering wheel. All-in-all, it's an excellent
package and transforms the driving dynamics of the car from
being merely best-in-class to damned interesting.
“We who take
risks may die, but those who do not are already dead.”
– Jean Behra
(French racing driver), as quoted by Brock Yates in June
2000 in memory of Car and Driver editor Don Schroeder,
who was killed performing top speed tests of a RENNTech
everlasting memory, Donald Martin Schroeder was vividly
and proudly alive until the very last moment of his
Yates, "Thoughts on a loss in the family,"
Driver (June 2000).
© 2011 Ashe
Lockhart. All rights reserved.