Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

2011 Adventure Touring Shootout

Well done motorcycle-usa.com on a great online 2011 Adventure Touring Shootout article of my favorite motorcycle category. Now just make your website more user friendly, and stop cluttering it up with videos and ads that take forever to load. With that said, very rarely does any print or online motorcycle magazine take on so many relevant adventure tourers all at one shot such as these model; 2011 BMW R1200GS, 2011 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring, 2011 KTM 990 Adventure Dakar Edition, 2011 Triumph Tiger 800 XC, and the early release of the 2012 Yamaha XT1200Z Super Tenere. This two-wheeled adventure category is really catching on here in the States finely, which I think is due to better looking performing bikes, great adventure forums and access to more cool accessories. I mean most people here in the U.S. have SUVs, so why are they not riding the equivalent motorcycle? Being able to go anywhere at any time in most weather conditions, sounds like fun to me. Especially with the U.S.’s crumbling roadways, it is like going off-road anyway, so why not ride a bike that can handle it? You can read reviews until your eyes pop out, but you will never know until you actually test ride the motorcycles to find out which one fits and suites your riding style because they are each really different with their own distinctive nuances.

MotoUSA | Adventure Touring Shootout: 2011 BMW R1200GS

 

MotoUSA | Adventure Touring Shootout: 2011 Ducati Multistrada 1200S

 

MotoUSA | Adventure Touring Shootout: 2011 Triumph Tiger 800 XC

 

MotoUSA | Adventure Touring Shootout: 2011 Yamaha Super Tenere

 

MotoUSA | Adventure Touring Shootout: 2011 KTM Adventure 990

2011 BMW M3 Competition Package “Whole Lotta Love”

Last fall in October on a Sunday afternoon, I was cordially invited to test-drive a 2011 BMW M at a BMW M Power Tour event held at the Vanderbilt Museum located on Long Island’s scenic North Shore. Among the cars, I had the options of choosing the 2011 M3 Coupe, M3 Coupe Competition Package, M3 Convertible, M3 Sedan, X5M or the X6M to test drive.

2010 BMW M Power Tour

2010 BMW M Power Tour | Vanderbilt Museum on Long Island, NY

 

As I approached the line up of cars, there she sat sparkling in the afternoon sunlight … a brand spanking new 2011 Space Gray Metallic M3 Coupe with Competition Package. With her engine warmed up and ready to go, I opened the driver side door and slid into the comfortable Fox Red Novillo Leather body hugging M sport seats and once situated, closed the hefty door with that typical BMW thump. After making some minor electronic seat adjustments and minor tweaks to the side and rearview mirrors, I was ready to go. [Compared to the E90 3 Series w/Sport Package, if you like a full range of seat adjustments, I recommend going with the manual control option, however with the E92 M3’s you have perfect full electronic seat adjustability.]

2011 M3 Coupe Competition Package

2010 BMW M Power Tour: 2011 BMW M’s

2011 M3 Coupe Competition Package

2010 BMW M Power Tour: 2011 M3 Coupe Competition Package

 

Before I started her up, I had to sign my life away and listen to a brief rundown of the controls from the M tour guide. However the sound of his voice quickly faded away as thoughts of sheer bliss entered my mind at the thought of driving this well-engineered machine. As soon as the tour guide ended his spiel, I pressed the start button to hear her come alive with an unfamiliar slight growl. I then took a glance down to familiarize myself with the new M DCT – 7 S-speed M Double Clutch Transmission shift lever. I tapped the lever over to the left into reverse, then tapped it over to the right for automatic mode and then got on my way.

As I rolled out of the parking lot, I came to a complete stop, looked both ways, and it was as if the seas had parted right in front of me, kind of like the feeling you get after buying a new sports car and driving it off the lot for the first time, but without the guilt. I slowly pressed the accelerator and off she went. Taking it easy at first on the residential roads, I soon came to a main intersection only to see flashing lights where another participant in a Melbourne Red Metallic X6M was pulled over. I slightly laughed knowing they were getting a speeding ticket and soon passed them hoping I would not encounter the same fate.

As I continued on to a main road riddled with Sunday drivers, I began to familiarize myself with the new iDrive system and sat nav, only to find how incredibly easy they were to operate. Even though I feel the screen is adequate in size, I would still like to see it slightly bigger in future models. With a simple twist and a gentle tap, all the controls and viewing options were at my fingertips. Typical with BMW’s cockpit and dashboard designs there is absolutely no distractions, pure simplicity, no BS – the way it should be. As I began searching for some good tunes on the crystal clear HD Radio, a familiar guitar riff; than-na-na-a’, then base than-na-na-a’, along with Robert Plants voice came out of the speakers – “You need coolin’, baby, I’m not foolin’, I’m gonna send ya back to schoolin’, Way down inside, a-honey, you need it. I’m gonna give you my love. I’m gonna give you my love, oh!!! Wanna whole lotta love, Wanna whole lotta love…” and with that, the car took control of me and the traffic around me suddenly dispersed and I found myself accelerating quickly accompanied by the roaring sound of the V8 engine. Right then and there I was in love, head over heals in love! With the wind in my hair, I was in a state of pure Zen and lost myself in the thrill of the ride. The ergonomics were perfect… the M sports seats wrapped around me like a glove and the beefy yet supple leather wrapped M steering wheel felt just right in my hands. All the while, without missing a beat, the Enhanced Premium Sound audio system vehicle-speed-sensitive equalization raised the volume of the music ever so slightly compensating for the sound of the V8, keeping the music totally crisp and kick ass.

I was on the clock and was running late getting back to the Vanderbilt Mansion, so I hit a nice long open stretch of road with an gradual incline and accelerated only to find myself flying past other cars. At one point, a motorcyclist was hitting the throttle hard as well, and I made sure to pass him cleanly only to notice he did a double take as I did so. The acceleration was nothing but clean and smooth. I quickly reached the top of the incline and was pleasantly surprised at how quick she was once on an open road. Now I get the Dr. Jekyll meets Mr. Hyde aspect of this Bavarian engineered muscle car. The E92 M3 is unassuming, even quiet as she passes you by at a crawl ever so stealthily, but beware what lies underneath, she definitely has a case of go-juice in her and is ok for the girlfriend or wife to make the trip to the grocery store, but expect her to have some fun on the way their.

It was time to back track. With John Bonham’s thumping 26″ base drum beat pumping out of the speakers “My, my, my, my/Ahh. Oh, shake for me, girl. I wanna be your backdoor man-a. Hey, oh, hey, oh/Ahh. Hey, oh, oooh. Oh, oh, oh, oh…” I began the decent after reaching the top of the incline, I stepped on it and down she flew, just like a rollercoaster ride. With very precise handling and acceleration, this baby was quick. After a couple of big swooping turns, I soon found myself back in stop-and-go traffic and put her into automatic mode to see how she performed only to find she passed with flying colors. The automatic mode will certainly come in handy for those who are manual-clutch challenged. I was a bit leery of the new M DCT – 7 S-speed M Double Clutch Transmission and having never driven the previous SMG, I had nothing really to compare it to. Unfortunately with M cars, you can’t usually test-drive them at a dealership, because typically they are unavailable to test drive, so you can’t compare transmissions. After driving manuals for most of my life and also experiencing BMW’s amazingly smooth Steptronic automatic transmission, I always wished there was something in-between, but now I can tell you this M3 has it! The M DCT is intuitive, the “flappy-paddle gearbox” is a piece-of-cake to use, yet easy to drive especially in traffic and will only get better as technology advances. The best of both worlds, I’m now a convert.

Time is quickly ticking away, I head directly back to be on time, but what is the fun of that? I think it is time for the old school “Super-GOBBI Lap” as I was known for doing back in the day. So I took a peek at the sat nav and took a right turn to head towards the water on a desolate back road. What a perfect back road it was to really put the M3 through its paces before heading back. Two shaded lanes of tarmac with some twists and a nice straight run with some dips. This is where I shut off the radio and lowered the windows more so I can hear the V8 doing its thing. The straightaway came up quick, so I decided to gradually punch it, and man she took off fast and was still climbing as I pressed the accelerator pedal. She never shook or wavered; the 19-inch forged alloy wheels in conjunction with the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) made for perfect stable thrust forward. Not wanting to take my eyes off the road to glance at the speedometer, she kept climbing with no foreseen plateau, I had to tell my brain to physically take my foot off the accelerator as I dipped down fast approaching an old train bridge. It felt like the car had no limit, I was a little taken aback. Expecting the power to max out a bit, but no-sir-ree-bob she wanted to keep going even if the road didn’t. I eventually hit the beach then turned around for a repeat and I took it a little easier on the return run through the under pass.

Well I made my way back using the on-board navigation, it worked seamlessly I might add. Back to the pothole riddled main roads, and the one thing that totally blew me away was the M3’s handling of the neglected Suffolk County roads. It was due to the amazing Electronic Dampening Control suspension and the 19” wheels that just simply glided over the bumps and potholes. This was the same road I took earlier in the day to get to the M Power Tour event which made my own car shake and rattle, but with the M3 Coupe with Competition Package it made mince meat out of mole hills, it was like you were in an Lux SUV or something, very impressive. Compared to the standard M3 Coupe the Competition Package has enhanced handling and suspension tuning, and offers 1/2-inch wider wheels front and back, totally worth it!

M3 Coupe Competition, 19-Inch Y Spoke Wheels (Style 359M)

M3 Coupe Competition, 19-Inch Y Spoke Wheels (Style 359M)

M3 Convertible, 18-Inch M Double Spoke Wheels (Style 219M)

M3 Convertible, 18-Inch M Double Spoke Wheels (Style 219M)

 

[NOTE: The ride height of the M3 Competition Package was spot-on perfect. It stated in the M3 brochure that the Competition Package has a lower suspension by 10mm (0.39″) for enhanced aero-dynamics and in the brochure’s photo, it looks pretty low. But after driving her, I did not find this to be the case. The car was very stable at high speeds and also great on bumpy roads and I was confident that I would clear the imperfections in the road with no hesitation. In a side by side visual comparison, the ground clearance appears to be the same or slightly greater unlike the lower measurement stated in the brochure for the Competition Package than in the standard M3. The reason why I believe this is so is because the 19″ rims on the Competition Package raises the ride height compared to the 18″ rims. Personally, I actually prefer an increased ride height, so there is no hesitation entering and exiting driveways or parking lots that have a bit of a lip or going over bumps and pot holes on the road. The one thing I dislike about the E90 3 Series Sports Package is that only the front suspension is lowered. At 80 mph on nice flat, well maintained roads, the E90 3 Series Sports Package is a dream, however pulling in and out of driveways and going over bumps and other road imperfections causes me to slow down to a crawl or come to a complete stop which leaves me paranoid that I’m going to scratch the front air dam and under carriage. To my delight, this was not the case with the M3 Competition Package. I wish I had a tape measure on hand to confirm if what I saw visually was correct.]

I took it down a notch and made my way back to the Vanderbilt reluctantly, I could have drove her straight to the California coast, all I needed was a bigger water bottle and I would have been all good to go. Pulled into the parking lot and shut her down for a rest. I didn’t want to get out, but I had to turn the key over some time. It was love at first sight for me, and was like a brief passionate love affair, which rarely comes along.

The E90 3 Series with Sports Package is a great reliable car with sporting luxury but not over the top, but the well-balanced and performing Competition Package is how I feel the standard M3 Coupe should come equipped quite honestly. The E92 M3 Coupe is not the most exotic or sexy car on the planet but I feel it is the coolest because it can be your reliable daily driver, and when you feel like turning-and-burning you can. The Enhanced Premium Sound audio system is the best stock stereo I have heard in years and I am meticulous about sound quality being a drummer, so I like it loud at times and with good base, it delivers. However, I would like to see the volume boosted up 10%+ or so, but that’s me.

2011 M3 Coupe Competition Package

2011 M3 Coupe Competition Package

 

On the outside the M3 Coupe is shrouded in sleek business attire, but all rock star underneath the hood, I only wish she looked a little more aggressive inside and out to match her personality and price tag. A little more in your face M styling, but they are getting there. In my opinion the Competition Package should include the Carbon Front Air Dam and High-tech Carbon Rear Spoiler. M = More but how much more is it worth? The price jumped dramatically from the previous M3 and basically you can get two 3 Series for what they are charging, so I expect to get a little more bang-for-your-buck meaning interior styling. And why not, an undercarriage mounting point for a trailer hitch.

Truly Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde share the same sole in this German engineered rear wheel drive machine. I was told by the heads of BMW M Division, that the M3 is 80% different then the standard 3 Series. So with that said it is an amazing automobile. For me it is the absolute perfect size car… well engineered and built, firm but totally comfortable and certainly a user-friendly badass daily driving vehicle. [Be aware she drinks a lot; so better fuel efficiency would be an improvement. NOTE: I did not have the new Auto Start Stop function on while driving.] *The one change I would make is to replace the summer tires with Ultra High Performance All-Season Tires so you can better handle 4-season driving, especially when it is your only ride. And maybe in the future we will finally see BMW make an All-Wheel Drive (AWD) M3 and M4 with M xDrive, because we need it here in New York with all the unpredictable weather we are now having, sound like a great idea to me.