BMW: E36 M3
The oft-overlooked BMW E36 M3, hit the bottom of its depreciation curve a few years ago, and although prices have risen by around 50 per cent, it’s still the a great entry point into M car ownership. You can find high-mileage examples for under £6000, but we would recommend spending a couple thousand more to find a clean example; you don’t want to end up buying a lemon like Alex…
The 3.2-litre S50B32 straight-six engine fitted to post-September 1995 M3 coupes is, as Alex describes it, “a heartless destroyer of speed limits”. With an impressive (for the time) 316bhp, the E36 is good for a 0-60mph time of around 5.4 seconds, and will go on to a top speed of 170mph (sans limiter). With clean examples hitting the £10,000+ point, now is the time to buy!
Alternatively, around £8500 also puts you in E46 M3 territory, so that’s a car well worth considering too.
2. Ferrari: Mondial and 348
Released in 1980, the Ferrari Mondial was a major disappointment. With a 3.0-litre 205bhp V8, a 0-60mph time of 8.2 seconds and a top speed of just 140mph, the Mondial was slaughtered by the automotive press, with Clarkson describing the car as a dog’s dinner.
As a result, prices are relatively low for a mid-engined car from Maranello – £30,000 should bag you a clean Quattrovalvole version. In fact, you can even purchase theexact same car as reviewed by Jezza!
But what if you want a more usable thoroughbred? Well, we’d go for a 348. Built from 1989 to 1995, the 348 was by no means perfect, with owners complaining of stiff gearboxes, vague steering and a number of reliability problems. But if you put those niggles aside, it’s still a mid-engined, two-seat, V8 Ferrari.
Unfortunately, these cars have already started to appreciate, so a reasonable spec 348 GTB will cost you north of £40,000. But on the plus side, you’re almost guaranteed to make a profit when it comes time to sell.
The infamous Biturbo was designed as a usable entry-level Maserati. Earlier cars like the Bora and the Merak were truly stunning machines, but they simply didn’t produce the revenue needed to keep the Italian company afloat. This forced CEO Alejandro de Tomaso to build a scalable Italian supercar for the “common” man. What resulted was arguably the worst car in the history of Maserati.
Fans of the Biturbo like to remind us that it was the first production road car to use a twin-turbocharger setup, but that didn’t mean it was powerful. The 2.5-litre twin-turbo V6 produced only 192bhp and 220lb ft of torque, giving the Biturbo a 0-60mph time of 6.5 seconds and a top speed of 135mph; acceptable for a hot-hatch, embarrassing for GT car. Handling was equally disappointing, with copious amounts of body roll and laughably bad brakes. And have we mentioned that it’s butt ugly?
As a result, these cars didn’t sell well, meaning that clean examples are now available for under £7000.
Audi: RS6 C5
Somewhat surprisingly, the iconic Audi RS6 C5 is now one of the cheapest ways into RS ownership. With a 4.2-litre, 450bhp, twin-turbocharged V8, the RS6 absolutely decimated the competition when it was released back in 2002, with the Avant claiming the title of ‘world’s fastest estate car’.
With a 0-60mph time of 4.4 seconds and a top speed of 155mph (over 180mph delimited) the RS6 sported serious supercar-rivalling performance. So what’s the catch? Well, with any car this advanced, problems are going to be commonplace. Owners have reported issues such as cracked manifolds, blown mass air flow sensors, worn bushes and leaky intercoolers. Servicing costs are also painfully high. You can pick up cars for under £7000, but we’d invest another £7k to secure a cleaner example. If you want the limited-run Plus, expect to pay around £20,000.
Mercedes: C36 AMG
The C36 AMG W202 was the first AMG model to be sold through Mercedes’ official dealership network and was a car designed to take on the dominant E36 M3. The sonorous inline-six found in the C280 was retained, but the AMG crew bumped the displacement up to 3.6 litres. Aggressive camshafts, an increase in compression and a performance exhaust were also added to give the car 276bhp and 284lb ft of torque. Granted, the 0-60mph time of 6.7 seconds and top speed of 155mph was still some way off the M3, but it wasn’t a bad start for the iconic tuner.
Firmer suspension with a 25mm drop gave the car impressive handling, and the S600 vented disc brakes guaranteed fade free braking performance. Surprisingly, for such a historically significant vehicle, high-milage examples can be had for under £5000. And if you double your budget, you can get a mint-condition C36 for just under£10,000. What a steal!
Bentley: Turbo R
The Bentley Turbo R is what we like to call a ‘proper’ Bentley. Based on the Mulsanne Turbo, the Turbo R made use of the legendary 6.75-litre pushrod V8, with a single Garrett turbocharger thrown on for some extra oomph. Exact power figures were never released, with Bentley describing the shove as “adequate”, but it was estimated that the early cars put out around 300bhp and 480lb ft of torque.
The Turbo R was a huge vehicle (5.3 metres in length) and featured an incredibly luxurious interior. As a result, the kerb weight of 2404kg made it a bit wayward in the corners. Hefty swaybars, stiffer springs and dampers and a new Panhard bar were fitted to help improve composure. But let’s face it, a car the size of a cruise liner will never be dynamically refined.
If you want a luxo-barge, but think the Turbo R is a bit too ostentatious, take a look at an early Jaguar XJR. Known as the X308, the menacing Jag was sold from 1998 through to 2003. Packing a 4.0-litre, 370bhp, supercharged V8 under its long and low bonnet, the XJR could achieve 0-60mph in 5.1 seconds and would go on to an electronically-limited top speed of 155mph.
There are plenty of cars available for under £6000, but these Jags did suffer from reliability issues, so it’s vital to carry out some specific checks before you buy.
The main issue was the Nikasil cylinder bore liners, well known to degrade over time. So it’s important to perform a compression test before money swaps hands. The timing-chain slippers were also notoriously weak, so make sure these have been replaced.
The 924 is best known for being the Porsche with the ‘Volkswagen van engine’, which is a shame, because the 924 is a damn good car. Originally designed as a Volkswagen sports car, Porsche purchased the design due to the fact that it made an ideal replacement for the lacklustre 914.
With a 2.0-litre 110bhp four-cylinder it’s safe to say that the 924 was slower than it looked. In fact, with a 0-60mph time of 9.2 seconds and a top speed of 124mph it was one of the slowest performance cars of the day. But as we all know, straight-line speed isn’t everything. The car featured a truly brilliant chassis and class-leading reliability.
I was just getting my automotive feet wet in the late 1990s when the retro design craze hit the American auto industry. I blame the baby boomers who were yearning for the cars of their youth, but didn’t want to deal with the hassle of actually owning something as old as they were.
My feelings on that whole era are mixed, as there were a few hits but a lot of styling misses. Also, the snob in me wants to chide auto designers for being lazy and completely unoriginal, but I recognise that making something new out of something old still requires a certain measure of skill. Plus, if it’s what the public wanted, I can’t fault manufacturers for trying to appeal to their tastes.
The retro phase seems to be behind us now, and while I’m not necessarily interested in bringing it back, there are some specific styling cues I’d love to see make a grand automotive comeback. I don’t know if I’d call all of these retro per se, but I think modern design trends could be made better with some help from these abandoned automotive touches.
Raised white letter tyres
I know raised white letter tyres are still somewhat common on pickup trucks, and they’ll always be around for classic muscle cars. But I’m dying to see a new Camaro with 16-inch mag wheels and a set of higher profile 60-series tyres with white letters. I don’t care if it leans towards the redneck side of things – I want to see a new performance car with slightly smaller wheels, slightly taller tyres, and white letters spinning down the road.
Once upon a time in America you could get a hood ornament on just about everything. And I’m not just talking about a tiny badge on the hood – I mean chunks of solid chrome sticking up like gun sights on a World War II fighter plane. They don’t have to be larger than life, but tell me it wouldn’t be neat to have a tiny chrome boxer (the dog) on the hood of a new WRX.
My grandmother bought a 1960 Cadillac Series 62 convertible brand new, and my dad restored it in the 1980s. It was a two-door convertible that weighed 2.5 tonnes, was 19-feet long, and could easily fit six people plus a Fiat 500 in the boot. Not even the new big Bentley convertibles come close to this, and we’re long overdue to have a large, decadent, cruising-for-days convertible like this old Caddy.
Aero front ends
I’m already a bit tired of all the radically-styled front clips with huge, gaping grilles and angular openings that were apparently designed by people with no concept of curves. I’m a child of the 1980s, so I suppose it’s natural for me to gravitate towards the classic 1980s aero look. And if you ask me, no car pulled it off better than the 1987-1988 Ford Thunderbird. These weren’t called Aero Birds for nothing.
Rear window louvres
With rake angles on front and rear glass growing longer with every new model year, now is the perfect time to bring back rear window louvres. These were all the rage in the 1970s, and I’ve actually seen a few on new Mustangs and Camaros so there are others that feel the same way I do. There are aftermarket options, but I’m waiting for a manufacturer with the guts to install one from the factory. Let’s combine it with white letter tyres and a vivid striping package for the ultimate 70s retro machine.
When the Ford Sierra hit US shores as the Merkur XR4Ti with the biplane rear spoiler in the mid-1980s I loved it. And when I saw my first Cosworth Escort with the similar wing, I loved it even more. I’m terrible at Photoshop, so could someone with better graphic art skills than me be so kind as to ‘shop a biplane spoiler on a new Focus RS and post it in the comments? I bet we’d all be shocked at just how good it looks.
I suppose you could say this is related to my fondness for big classic convertibles. American auto designers in the 1950s and 1960s were dead set on turning cars into jet fighters, and while I don’t think big massive fins have a place in today’s automotive landscape, I bet the new Lincoln Continental would look even better with a small pair of fins out back to contrast with the sloping rear beltline.
When the fifth-generation Chevrolet Corvette ended production in 2004, the hidden pop-up headlamps went with it. Pedestrian safety regulations pretty much guarantee that hidden headlights won’t return, but that still doesn’t stop me from missing the clean, aero look that pop-up headlamps delivered. They’re the perfect foil to current front-end design trends that either resemble open-mouthed monkeys discovering their backsides for the first time, or instruments of evil with machine gun eyes straight from a Terminator movie.
1. ‘Feeding’ the wheel
The ‘pull-push’ method, also known as ‘feeding the wheel’, is argubly the most important ‘driving test’ technique. It’s a method that has been taught for years; even the police force use it when training Class 1 drivers. The idea behind the technique is that it allows you to keep both hands on the wheel at all times, therefore making you a ‘safer’ driver.
Unfortunately, this is nothing more than ill-advised rhetoric. Feeding the wheel is inefficient, outdated and in some circumstances, it can be dangerous. For example, imagine that you’re on a country road and you approach a blind corner. You enter what you think is a shallow bend, but as you turn in, the corner starts to decrease in radius. To avoid running wide, you need to add more steering lock quickly but smoothly; something you can’t do effectively when feeding the wheel.
If you attempt to ‘pull and push’ the wheel, you’ll end up making jagged inputs at a point where the car is already unstable. And if the corner continues to tighten, the push and pull technique will be too slow, and you’ll end up running wide.
Instead, if you keep both hands on the wheel and cross your arms, you maintain that vital connection with the wheel. You can feel what the front end is doing and you can add steering input progressively. There’s a reason why ARDS qualified racing instructors ask first time track drivers to keep their hands at nine and three.
2. Constantly applying the hand-brake
The handbrake is your best friend on the driving test. Almost every time you stop, you’re required to use it; even after the emergency stop! Thankfully, most drivers come to their senses and drop this ‘bad habit’ once they’ve passed their test.
In reality, there’s no need to handbrake every time you come to a halt. For example, if you’re in stop-start traffic, the foot brake will usually suffice. And if you need to make an emergency stop in a pile-up situation, the last thing you should do is apply the handbrake. Once stopped you should check your mirrors, put the car in gear and pull over to the side.
Don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying that you should never use it, but you don’t need to apply it every time you stop.
3. Checking your mirrors at pre-determined intervals
Every time you set off you should theoretically conduct a six-point check. The process goes (in the UK): look over your left shoulder, check your left exterior mirror, check your rear-view mirror, check the road ahead, check your right mirror and then finally look over your right shoulder. On your test you need to make these checks look super obvious to avoid incurring any minor penalties.
Our problem with this technique is the fact that it turns situational ‘awareness’ into a box-ticking exercise. And as we all know, when you do something simply for the sake of it (in this case, pleasing an instructor), the process ceases to have a meaningful effect.
4. Don’t flash other road users
The Highway Code states that you should ‘only flash your headlights to let other road users know that you are there. Do not flash your headlights to convey any other messages’. As a result, you cannot flash your headlights on your driving test, and you cannot react to someone else flashing their lights at you. Now, we understand that in some circumstances this form of communication has the potential to be hazardous, but in most cases we find it to be rather helpful.
Flashing people to say thank you or to let them into a line of traffic is a daily occurrence for most of us. And whatever you might have been told, flashing your lights in the UK is not illegal.
5. Speed is the enemy (it’s actually your friend)
Controversially, the driving test in the UK fails to incorporate any form of motorway driving. The majority of your lessons will take place in busy towns or cities where your maximum speed will be limited to 30mph. As a result, young drivers often view speed as the enemy. This isn’t a major problem on crowded streets, but it can play havoc when it comes to driving on motorways.
When merging onto a faster road, it’s vital that you accelerate to match the speed of the adjacent traffic. Unfortunately, learner drivers often get intimidated and slow down on on-ramps. Not only is this dangerous to the learner driver, but it’s also dangerous to drivers travelling at high speed on the main road. If only they knew that mashing the loud pedal is actually safer.
6. Constantly checking your speed
Speeding during your driving test can result in instant failure. As a result, most learners spend the majority of their assessment staring at the speedometer. This is because the test is nothing more than a box-ticking exercise: as long as you’re under the limit, you’re deemed to be safe.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. If you’re doing the speed limit, but not focusing on the road ahead, this is equally (if not more) dangerous than speeding. Thankfully, the more you drive, the more accustomed you become to multi-tasking (checking speed, road conditions and surrounding traffic).
Finally, we want to know from you guys, what pointless things were you told during your driving lessons? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Audi S8 D2
The Audi S8 D2 is best known for its role in the John Frankenheimer epic Ronin. When a bunch of ex-special operatives needed an undercover performance car, there was only one vehicle for the job, the S8. The 4.2-litre, 335bhp V8 powered super saloon was a perfect example of restrained design. There was almost nothing about the handsome car that pointed to its supercar baiting performance; the silver mirrors (an S car tradition) and the discreet badges were the only give away.
With an advanced Quattro system the S8 could haul itself to 60mph in an impressive 5.7 seconds, and would have gone on to 170mph if it hadn’t been fitted with a 155mph limiter. We desperately want one, but running costs are a huge turn off. Then again, a clean, low-milage example would be uber cool. Now to find one…
2. Subaru Legacy Spec B
The great thing about the Subaru Legacy is that the majority of the general public have no idea what they are. Don’t get me wrong, in the UK, you see plenty of them, but they’re usually packed with children, dogs and walking gear. But when you think about it, this is actually a good thing, because you can own a car with fantastic performance, without having to deal with the attention that comes with owning something like an anti-social STI.
If you’re currently in the market for one of these brilliant vehicles, we’d search for a Subaru Legacy Spec B. With a STI six-speed manual transmission, 2.5-litre, 247bhp boxer engine and top-quality Bilstein dampers, the Spec B is the ultimate all-rounder.
3. GMC Syclone
The GMC Syclone is argubly the most famous pick-up of all time. Based on the fairly uninspiring GMC Sonoma, the Syclone was shockingly fast in its day, instantly securing it legendary status.
The truck featured a turbocharged, 280bhp 4.3 litre V6 engine which sent power to all four wheels. According to a 1991 Car and Driver comparison test, the Syclone could accelerate to 60mph in a shockingly fast (for the time) 5.3 seconds and could run 14.1 seconds in the quarter-mile. We can thank the Syclone for trucks like the F-150 SVT Lightning and the Dodge RAM SRT-10, but nothing comes close to the cool factor of the GMC.
4. Mercedes 500E
JL Photography suggested this brilliant classic. The 500 E was a high-performance variant of the W124, developed in a collaboration with Porsche. The 500E received a naturally aspirated, 5.0-litre, 322bhp, V8 engine which allowed the car to reach 62mph (100 km/h) in an impressive 6.1 seconds.
Around 120 cars were produced, with later models being built beside the iconic Audi RS2. A limited number of cars were fitted with a 6.0-litre AMG developed V8. But for ultimate sleeper status we would happily stick with the standard 500E.
5. Passat 4Motion W8
In our opinion, the Passat 4.0-litre 4Motion W8 is one of the coolest cars of the last decade. We even picked one as our favourite unconventional sleeper. The W8 was uber exclusive, with only 246 examples being sold in the UK, which was probably something to do with the car’s eye-watering £38,000 price tag. However, when you consider the development work that went into the engine, you can see why the car was so expensive.
The W8 engine was effectively formed by sticking two VR6 blocks (with a couple of cylinders lopped off) together at 72 degrees. In fact, the car was basically an engineering testbed, with derivates of the highly complex motor working their way into the VW Phaeton and Bugatti Veyron. The four-wheel drive system made this car a brilliant all-weather machine, and if you buy one in estate form, you’ll have yourself an understated practical weapon.
6. Renault Mégane GT 220
The Renaultsport Mégane 275 Trophy-R is quite easily one of the best handling front-wheel drive cars on sale. But with lairy graphics, heinous racing seats and a strut brace running through the boot of the car, it’s not a vehicle for someone who wants to slip under the radar.
Thankfully, the guys over at Renault have your back. The Mégane Sport Tourer GT 220 has all of the good bits from the 275 Trophy-R, all wrapped up in a humble estate body. The Tourer receives the same 2.0-litre turbocharged engine as the R, revised springs and dampers, and a Renaultsport honed chassis – brilliant.
So guys, which car is the most covert? If you have any other suggestions, let us know in the comments below!
The tuning scene hit a creative low in 2015, with ‘on-trend’ owners going Rocket Bunny and Liberty Walk crazy. I mean, almost every car at SEMA had riveted fender flares. This got us wondering: what will happen when these kits go out of fashion? Well, CTzen The Stan reckons that the majority of these modified cars will be returned to stock condition.
If Stan turns out to be right, we might start a new business called Standomod: ‘Restoring ruined classics back to their former glory.’ Just think how many Aventadors we’d get through our doors…
2. Electric car tuning
We have yet to see a tuning company improve the performance of an electric vehicle, but we’ve seen them tweak the aesthetics. For example, legendary tuning house Brabus reworked a Tesla Model S to produce this handsome looking beast. 21-inch wheels, a carbonfibre splitter and a reupholstered interior are the highlights. We like.
3. TRICE: Track Inspired Cosmetic Enhancement
According to CTzen Ali Mahfooz, ‘trice’ includes modifications such as ducktail spoilers and non-functional canards. These aerodynamic additions have turned up on a number of production cars over the past few years – the Mercedes C63 AMG Black and BMW M3 GTS being the most prolific – so perhaps Ali is onto something.
We love blending old school aesthetics with modern technology – it’s why we adore restomods – so the idea of a retro Tesla rival speaks to us. CTzen GamerBoy_2999 reckons we’ll see plenty of electric conversions in the future, but American manufacturer DMCEV has already begun. The company’s fully-electric DeLorean features a 260bhp electric motor, a 0-60mph time of 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 125mph. Impressive numbers.
A major problem with electric cars is the fact that pedestrians can’t hear them coming. To solve this issue, CTzen Ansen reckons that manufacturers will start to produce vehicles that emit noises through external speakers. We just hope they don’t settle on Saleen’s solution. Awful.
6. Rally specification Subarus and Evos
After seeing so many stanced and slammed Subies, CTzen Johan Karlsson predicts that true rally enthusiasts will rebel in OTT fashion. We haven’t seen any proof of this so far, but we hope it comes true! Both the Impreza and Evo have, in our opinion, always looked best when they’re sitting on high-riding rally-specification suspension. Match this with fully functional aero and petite gravel-spec wheels and you have utter perfection.
CTzen Jonah thinks that neon underglow, heinous spoilers and dodgy vinyl graphics are going to make a return. Judging by the taste of some YouTubers (see above), we can’t help but agree.
Tyre lettering was originally conceived for advertisement purposes. I mean, what’s the point in supplying the whole F1 grid with rubber hoops if no one can see your name? This trend slowly made its way to road cars, with owners using lettering pens to colour in the tyre manufacturer’s name.
This trend peaked in the late 1980s and erly 90s, but it’s slowly making a return. What do you think guys? Love or hate?
They make great drifting platforms
Because pop-up headlights
They provide endless tuning opportunities
Japanese supercars are exquisite
They make great rally cars
They provide maximum smiles per gallon
Porsche, Mazda, Toyota and most famously Nissan have all at some point used all-wheel steering to their advantage, so how does it all work?
Four-wheel steering is a very complicated combination of position sensors, actuators and an on-board computer that effectively increases the mobility and stability of a car at both low and high speeds. The most famous car to feature this technology was the Nissan Skyline R34 GTR which used Nissan’s HICAS (High Capacity Actively Controlled Steering), with Nissan pioneering the technology in the R31 Skyline from 1986.
There are two different areas of four-wheel steering as mentioned – one for slow speed driving and one for high-speed driving. At anything under speeds of around 30mph, the rear wheels are actuated to turn in the opposite direction to the front wheels. Instead of the only turn-in being from the front end, the rear wheels help to essentially articulate the car, reducing the turning radius dramatically.
At high speeds, the opposite occurs; the rear wheels are actuated in the same direction as the front tyres, resulting in what is essentially an activation of the rear end. The rear wheels share the turning forces with the front wheels, which makes for a much more stable vehicle in high-speed bends as the rate of yaw is dramatically reduced. The stability created by the dynamic rear wheels reduces the movement of the car’s weight around its vertical axis with the slight turn-in opposing the lean of the car’s mass as it naturally sways through a corner. What the four-wheel steering is effectively achieving is simulating the shortening and lengthening of the wheelbase.
The modern electrical systems use an accelerometer to measure the vehicle’s speed, as well as motion sensors on the front axle to measure steering lock. This is then translated to actuators on the rear axle which generally apply around 1.5-2.5 degrees of lock to the rear wheels. On average, every fifteen degrees of frontal steering lock equates to around one degree of rear wheel movement. The affects can be profound with turning radii decreasing by up to 25 per cent. High-speed track driving also benefits, especially in high-speed overtaking as well as evasive manoeuvres at motorway speeds.
Nissan were great advocates of four-wheel steering and started with hydraulic HICAS systems which could turn the rear wheels up to 10 degrees in either direction. As research and development increased in their sports car divisions, it wasn’t long before HICAS went fully electric.
The older hydraulic systems were massively complicated in their construction and were said to sometimes cause hairy handling due to a lack of calibration over time. This is one reason why four-wheel steering slowly became unpopular after a surge in the 1980s and 90s. But with the increase in electric automation, actuated four-wheel steering has made a comeback. Porsche GT’s Andreas Preuninger has said that the electric system on the 991 911 is so quick and precise that you can’t tell it’s working at all.
The hydraulic four-wheel steering systems on the other hand were solely mechanical, with a shaft transmitting the frontal steering angle to a small gearbox which then influenced the toe of the wheel through the movement of the rear tie rods.
Thankfully, modern manufacturing systems are making four-wheel steering affordable for a much wider market, with Renault managing to feature a fully-fledged system on the Megane Sport Tourer GT. After being consigned only to sports cars or as an optional extra, it seems that manufacturing costs have decreased and have therefore reintroduced four-wheel steering to us mere mortals.
So, maybe it won’t be long until even hot hatches feature some form of four-wheel steering. Which car would you like to see feature this re-emerging technology? Comment below!