Decisions decisions…

So while not a technical post, I thought it was time to delve into my other passion… CARS.  At this point I’ve had around 3 years to sit idle without a car and debate all of the fine examples out there that warrant my interest.  I’ve gradually broken down the list of possible choices and weeded out those which fall way outside of my price range or those which do but don’t meet my key criteria.  So onto the criteria…

The must have’s:
1. Manual transmission

2. High performance potential and track superiority (ie. it must handle really well not just in a straight line)

3. Exclusivity, just because it meets the first two items doesn’t mean it’s in a league of its own.

So, the contenders which I’ve considered are as follows:
1. Lexus IS-F

2. Audi RS4

3. BMW M3

4. Porsche Carrera S/4S

5. Some kind of build, ie. purchase a Lexus GS300 and perform an LS1 engine swap + full cage conversion then drift the hell out of it.

Out of the cars listed above it’s taken quite a while to whittle down what really fits my requirements.  There are simply to many combinations in terms of potential builds and after market options.  This last piece is key since I am at heart a modding enthusiast.  So let’s boil down each car and find out which two are left for contemplation.

First up the Lexus IS-F

So, for starters I really like the subtle style of the car.  The combination of the HP increase, the brake package, as well as the background regarding how and why the car was built really make it a contender.  After keeping it in my top three for over a year it got dropped due to my first condition.  And that would be the transmission.  I don’t care if Ferrari is converting all of their cars to flappy paddle auto/manuals.  True manuals are built for true driving enthusiasts and this is the final nail in the coffin for this car.  Granted the 8 speed automatic is no slouch and would also help with MPG’s in my commute but it’s still a compromise.  So on to the next car…

Audi RS4

I’ll admit, I’ve been a die-hard Audi fan since my first car which was an Audi 1989 5000S.  The RS4 is and has been one of my dream cars for quite some time.  Since I’m from New England the combination of Quattro AWD + 400+ HP is music to my ears.  This car is also a serious engineering achievement with a red line which almost tops 9k rpm.  This is unheard of with a V8.  There are of course some issues which have cropped up since its introduction in 2007.  The V8’s use of direct injection has proven to be a sore spot in what seems a winning combination.  A simple google search will yield results which prove that Audi has a serious issue with Carbon Buildup which is directly associated with the newly introduced injection technology.  Over the years enthusiast just like me have documented how to deal with this issue and the frequency of cleanings required.  Did you catch that last piece?  Yeah… cleanings per year or per years plural.  This cramps the RS4’s style in a big way.  But I guess in the end the phrase “You have to pay to play” comes to mind.  The car as a whole even with this key issue still fits into my list of possible must have’s.  So… on to the next one.

BMW M3

It’s the pinnacle of BMW performance.  The car that is not to big (M5/M6), and not to small (M1 shortly coming out).  It caters to the driver much like the RS4 and the IS-F.  But is more pure in its pursuit of perfection (personal opinion).  I’ll admit I’m slightly biased since I’ve attended a BMW driving event and have experienced what the brand has to offer.  The car out of the box whether in Sedan or Coupe format conform to my list of requirements.  Manual transmission (Check), high performance & track oriented (Check), Exclusive? sort of, I see at least 5-10 a week so they aren’t exactly rare.  You can see that the M3 gets compared pretty harshly out of the gate and I guess it’s because for some reason I’m not drawn to it.  It is pure in its pursuit of driving perfection, but it still has its flaws.  Lets start with the engine.  Its a V8 much like the RS4 but it can be out performed by its little brother the 335.  This makes the 335 suddenly a contender when it shouldn’t be.  I think BMW is about to correct this mistake shortly with the M3 which will come out in the next year or two.

Porsche Carrera (2006+) S/4S

Porsche really wasn’t considered in my original list until a friend picked up a Carrera S.  After the first ride in it I knew that I had found something special.  Whether in its base form or in its tweaked S or 4S variants Porsche represents an unmatched competitor when looking at driver experience.  So with that being said the car/s are not without their faults.  Lets address the obvious, it’s a coupe, there is no 4 door option at least not without a $100k+ price tag.  The cars are known for being quite reliable, but with one caveat.  Even the latest revision of the Carrera/S engine they still suffer from inter mediate shaft bearing (IMS) failure. This causes catastrophic engine failure, kind of a downer considering it will cost you about $18k to replace it.  Besides that small issue the cars are known for being bullet proof and have a solid heritage which encourages track days, daily driving, and year round flogging of what is a sick enthusiast car.

Build it myself…

The last option while out of left field is to find a generic car and turn it into a dedicated track car.  This option is a trade-off since when you go down this route the vehicle becomes a nuisance as a daily driver.  This means that overall the amount of time spent in it enjoying it is less than the previous choices.  Granted compromises can be made and the car of choice can be tweaked and tuned to the level which I’m comfortable with.  The cost associated with the build is also a consideration since starting out with this scenario means shelling out a small amount followed by pouring money into something which is worth less than the parts I’ll end up installing when said and done.  The caveat is that it will be a true build starting from scratch with performance and handling gains being measured from the car being in its stock vanilla form.  This follows the “built, not bought” thought complex which I know and respect.

So now that everything has been put into perspective lets remove the outliers.  The IS-F while a contender is off the list due to its transmission.  The M3 is next on the axe list.  It’s no slouch and offers all of the performance points but less of the exclusivity.  This of course makes it more desirable in some ways due to the high level of after market support.  My friends I’m sure will read this and have an opinion which may sway me but for now I’ll continue down to the last two.  The last option while tempting would consume far too much time due to build time and wait time for the fun factor to be achieved.  The second piece of this puzzle is reliability.  When starting with a car that has either sat for to long (low mileage) or been driven for years there are many key components which will need to be replaced as the build progresses.  This while understandable is more an annoyance then a selling point.  I know the nay sayers would argue that with the amount of end build cost we’re talking about I could easily put together a car in no time at all and come out with a considerably lower build cost.  No matter it’s still on the list and will be considered as an option until I make my final purchase.

This leaves the last two unlikely contenders.  The Audi RS4 and the Porsche Carrera.  They are entirely different cars but I believe they both evoke the same end state… driving bliss.  Time will tell as to which I end up with.  A follow-up post will tell the end state of my debate.

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