The new BMW M3's V-8 is one of the highest-revving in the world.
The BMW M3 gains a V-8, Sam Smith tours Wales, and we welcome back Jamie Kitman as a regular columnist. Also, the A5 brings a new look to Audi.
Is there such a thing as an inappropriate car to stick a V-8 into? I know a photographer who once stuffed a Rover V-8 into a Morris Minor (with hysterical consequences), and lord knows how many early Jaguar XJs have been saved from a life of ignoble immobility by the timely installation of a Chevy V-8. In fact, I used to be of the mind that there was little wrong with any car that couldn't be put right by a properly installed V-8, even in something as singularly esoteric as a Lotus Esprit, although I did wonder at the wisdom of sticking a V-8 into something as tiny as a Westfield (a Caterham-sized roller skate). It turned out to be a grenade on wheels.
But I have to say, "V-8 M3" just sounds inherently wrong. BMW's iconic in-line six has been an M3 mainstay since 1995, and that engine has, for me, become the defining element of the car-especially the third-generation version, which will happily spin to its 8000-rpm limiter all day, every day. And in spite of its massive punch, that big six has a light touch about it, a kind of machined delicacy.
I'll miss that engine, but the two numbers that leap from the pages of our dive into the new M3's V-8 (page 54) are these-it is 33 pounds lighter than the old six with an even higher rev limit of 8300 rpm. That makes it one of the highest-revving series-production V-8s in the world. Very BMW. Plainly, the M3 is not an inappropriate place to stick a V-8. (That'd be the Westfield.)
And with his own unusual take on what constitutes a proper V-8, Reeves Callaway's been at it again. The result is one of the most spectacular-and expensive-Corvettes to turn a wheel (page 70), but I'll take any excuse to read about the man himself. The fact that his cars are beautifully engineered and conceived with genuine passion would be enough to put him in my hero book. That his senior thesis at Amherst College concerned the restoration of the 1954 Le Mans-winning Ferrari 375 Plus just seals the deal, really.
Assistant editor Sam Smith's current obsession isn't with V-8s or even sixes. He'd heard how great the small European hot hatches are, and how you haven't lived until you've uncorked one or two of them on a Welsh mountain road. So we sent him to Wales (page 90) to bring a distinctly American view to an experience our Brit cousins take for granted. "Blown away" doesn't begin to describe his experience.
A couple of us have taken quite a shine to Audi's A5 coupe, revealed on page 102. But a couple more have reservations (me, for instance). Road test editor Marc Noordeloos reckons that the undulating character line along the body side gives this Audi a grace and style lacking in its more geometric but less flamboyant siblings. But that precision and spareness of design is exactly what I like about Audis. It's what defines them, makes them unique, even. Why would Audi want to abandon that?
Another piece of design that we're pumped about is the Dodge Demon concept, so neatly dissected by Robert Cumberford on page 34. It's an entirely successful, purely American take on a formula that was perfected by the Mazda Miata. And it's just the kind of morale-building car that Dodge needs.
In another surprise, senior editor Joe DeMatio came back from driving Mercedes-Benz's S-class-based, four-door convertible Ocean Drive-a car we looked askance at when it debuted in Detroit-and he's absolutely in love with the concept (page 46). Joe's one of our resident cynics, so that's a very good sign indeed.
Finally, Jamie Kitman is back in his usual spot, giving us his vintage insight into why things aren't over by a long shot for GM, Ford, and Chrysler. He cares a great deal about these matters. In fact, Kitman and Callaway are two of the purest car guys you'd ever hope to meet. Just different-but we've got room for both.