Thursday, 18 October 2018

Police getting BMW's, why not go premium yourself?

It is now common knowledge that NSW Highway Patrol are replacing their current crop of Commodore SS and Falcon XR8's with frugal yet fiendishly quick BMW 530d's (and less frugal but still quick Chysler 300C SRT8's). Motorist state and country wide will be trying to etch the outline of BMW's big sedan into their subconscious, just in case they find themselves going 83kph in an 80 zone. And of course being of the mindset that euro luxo barges are always better I thought if the Police can do it so can you! Here are 4 big Euro sedans that you wont need to rob a bank for.

Speaking of robbing banks you know what would do nicely? Audi's C6 generation A6. Available with everything under the bonnet from a 2 litre turbo four all the way to a 4.2 V8 nicked from the R8 supercar the A6 has always been the understated persons luxury sedan of choice. Almost plain on the outside with just a whiff of class from that mid 00's smooth surface design language, the perfect shut lines and 4 silver rings doing just enough to let people know a lot of engineering went into the C6 A6. If fueling the thing up doesn't bother you then personally I'd find a big boy 4.2 litre Quattro for ultimate cross country cruising.
Audi A6 C6 generation
And as luck would have it here is one I found earlier. Yes it might cost a bit to maintain and the KM's are admittedly high for such a high performance power plant but surely the addition of a sports exhaust to that V8 will melt away any warning light woes! 
2005 Audi A6 4.2 Quattro: $8000       

On the subject of reliability what about a brand that can simultaneously strike fear and love into the hearts of owners? Alfa Romeo and specifically the 166. In my opinion one of the most uniquely handsome sedans ever made. With its comparatively small headlights pushed to other edges of the front end the car is quite hammer head shark like in its appearance. This might be a bit polarising but certainly goes some way to making it an instantly recognisable car.
Alfa 166

Unfortunately Alfa facelifted the car in 2003 giving it normal sized lights and re profiled the front end. Personally I don't think the latter car is as pretty. Anyway design aside there was really only one engine the 166 deserved, Alfa's 3 litre "Busso" V6 sitting pretty with polished intake manifolds its enough to make you go weak at the knees and don't get me started on the sound! Luckily for us petrol heads Alfa's horrible reputation for reliability means even the relatively rare 166 is super affordable. $6k is all you need to bag a good one. Have a look below.
1999 Alfa Romeo 166: $6000

Remember when James Bond drove BMW's? I can because they where the Bonds of my childhood and the one that stands out is 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies 7 Series. It wasn't a sexy bond car, it was't a glamorous Bond car but for some reason I lusted after it. 007's was of course a big 750i V8 but the BMW's range topper also came with smaller bent 8's and some of BM's sweet inline sixes too.
BMW 7 Series E28
Subtle and understated on the outside BMW threw everything but the kitchen sink at the interior. Sumptuous electrically adjustable seats, and a memory function that would adjust everything to a particular drivers preference when they opened the door. there was also tray tables in the back, a car phone, TV's and sat nav all featured in the 7 in the 1990's! No wonder it cost upward of $170k when it was new. Nowadays however a mere 6 grand will get you into one and in the case of the car I found below it could be a real peach, listen to my podcast for more details.     
2000 BMW 735i; $5999

No run down of luxury Euro sedans would be complete without taking a look at the Mercedes Benz line up. And to be honest with Australia having always been such a strong market place for Benz I was bit overwhelmed by the choice on the used market. Following the theme of the above cars I could have lumped for an big S-Class, there are too many to choose from for under $8k, but I thought it might be funner to push the hypothetical budget and get something a little rarer from the slightly smaller E-Class stable.
Mercedes E55 AMG
I give you the sub $15k E55 AMG, sitting purposefully on classic Merc mono block alloys the E55 is an autobahn stormer if ever there was one. Unlike the AMG's of today which shout about their intentions and actually go around corners without falling over the old W210 E55 was designed to obliterate long distance drives and overtake everything in its path thanks to a 5.5 litre V8. Corners came second and the lazy auto box didn't exactly reward the spirited driver. In saying that that though the W210 chassis still underpins the Chrysler 300C some 22 years after it was released! Yes the very 300C that the Police now use in SRT8 form along with those BMW's, so much like I said at the start if its good enough for the law...
1999 Mercedes Benz E55 AMG; $13590

I have also rambled on and given some more details about these cars, specifically the ones for sale on my podcast. Please go and have a listen if you can spare the time.
The Podcast

Friday, 1 June 2018

Lamenting no more manual GTI? Try these

You might have read over the past few weeks that as of 2019 the option of buying a brand new manual transmission VW Golf GTI in Australia will be no more.
Volkswagen Golf GTI Original, the last manual Golf you can buy in Oz

The reasoning for VW doing this is obvious, nobody bought the three pedal option so why bother packing them on the boat from Germany? It's business and the Germans do it rather well. However as a part time motoring journo and car enthusiast I just need a moment to lament the death of one of the purest hot hatches you can buy new. Whilst knowing full well that the reason its gone is because people like me didn't put there money where there mouth was!

For someone like me, the manual transmission adds an extra layer of character to a car. It makes you work hard for that forward momentum and turns that sometimes tedious job of getting from A to B into something that bit more exciting. Yes I am that 1% who doesn't mind a manual in traffic. Rev matching a downshift on the way to stopping at red light actually gives me some excitement and I feel that driving a car which allows you to do that is just that bit more personable even if it is an econobox.

But a manual hot hatch, they are quite possibly the most personable and characterful cars money can buy. They are workaday hero's who nip at the heels of cars 3 or 4 times their price. A three pedal hot hatch eggs you on, makes you feel like a driving god and releases your inner hooligan, in a good way of course. And the Golf GTI was arguably the original. So the thought of no longer being able to buy one new makes me very sad indeed.

So in a bid to stop myself lamenting the loss of the three pedal GTI I've hit the classifieds to see what used hot hatch hero's you can buy with a H pattern sticking out the middle. And in the process doing the very thing that probably killed the Golf in the first place; buying used instead of new!

BMW 130i M Sport

My first pick is definitely one for a specific type of enthusiast, but wow what a car. The BMW 130i M Sport. A left field hot hatch if ever there was one. With a wopping great 3 litre straight six shoehorned under the bonnet sending 195kw of power rearwards the little 1 Series was highly regarded in period as one of the finest handling hatches available. That big 6 was of course mated to a crisp 6 speed manual that allowed BMW's hatch to be a smooth cruiser or a total hooligan.
BMW 130i M Sport

Despite its niche appeal there are a few 130i's on the market at the moment, priced from $13,000 up to $25,000 the little BM is holding its value 13 years after it first appeared, but I view this as a good thing, previous owners have most likely looked after their big engine wrapped in a little package.     

Audi S3 8P

BMW a bit too slidey for you? How about something with 4 wheel drive? The second generation S3 took VW's already excellent 2 litre turbo four, upped the boost and added Quattro to make it an unstoppable 188kw all weather back road blaster. For some it might be a little too clinical, but I urge you to consider it if you lust after a Germanic hot hatch with a manual.
Audi S3 8P

Prices for an S3 are slightly more palatable than the 1 Series and if you so choose an S3 can be had in ultra niche 3 door form, for that extra slice or hot hatch originality. Anything from $9000 to $20,000 should get you into one. I'd advise going mid teens for decent one.     

Kia Pro'ceed GT

My next pick is for someone who wants a car that almost nobody else has, which is odd given that it's a Kia. I present to you the Koreans first attempt at a mildly hot hatch, the Pro'ceed GT. A somewhat random but very welcome break from the norm that Kia billed as a halo car in Australia between 2014 and 2016. Powered by a 150kw 1.6 litre turbo the 3 door manual only Kia wasn't quite a fire breather when compared to some rivals in a straight line. But it made up for it in the corners with superb handing and a set of lovely Recaro bucketsto keep you snug. Also buy one of the last ones and you'll still have a chunk of Kia's 7 year warranty left too.
Kia Pro'Ceed GT

Prices have dropped well below $20,000 for Pro'Ceeds with low KMs, which given that the car is still pretty modern compared to the first 2 on my list seems like a very good deal. 

Peugeot 206 GTI 180

Everything else on my list proving too pricey? How about this little French rocket, from the makers of one of the godfathers of the hot hatch game (the 205 GTI) I give you the Peugeot 206 GTI 180. The recipe here is simple, take a small hatch, add a 2 litre 16 valve naturally aspirated engine, close ratio manual box, work some suspension wizardry and every time you get out you'll be smiling. That 180 denotes the bhp of the little Pug, that's 130kw by the way, in a car that weighs a little bit more than a bag of frozen peas.
Peugeot 206 GTI 180

Since the cars debuted in 2003 prices have plummeted as per most French cars Down Under. But although that might be bad for previous owners it means that hot hatch connoisseurs longing for back to basics thrills need only part with $5000 to get a good one. Happy hunting. 

The manual Golf GTI is going away, but please don't despair, the used market is a treasure trove of hot hatchery with 3 pedals. I hope that showcasing 4 here has helped ease some sadness. The cars mentioned are really just the tip of the iceberg if you lust after a proper hot hatch with great driving dynamics, I could go on and on and on reeling of alternatives, but I wont subject you to that.