Joel Feder Gives a Shift – M5 Part 2
[bd] Love how you state the car didn’t have to be flashy; that understated is fine by you. I wonder, has this always been your preference or is this the result of exposure to so many flawless new machines? Regardless, how does driving so many brand, spankin’ new cars and trucks make you feel about this Beemer? About older vehicles in general?
[jf] Like many auto enthusiasts, I grew up with the Porsche 959, Ferrari Testarossa, Lamborghini Countach, and McLaren F1 all on my wall. Some of those – the Ferrari and Lamborghini – I’d consider flashy. I wasn’t drooling over them because they were flashy. It was the engineering, the design, the entire package. Whether it was flashy or not didn’t really play in. The Pagani Huayra is a good example. I’d consider it to be flashy, but it captivates my attention. The engineering behind it, the sounds it makes, the way it works, it’s so intriguing to me. In comparison to the Huayra, the P1 and 918 Spyder aren’t exactly flashy, but they aren’t pedestrian, and those too I’m very interested in for the same reasons as the Huayra.
Sorry, this has been a very long answer. The bottom line is I’m fine with understated, but I don’t hate flashy cars; it’s simply not a requirement for me. Not only that, but when I have a flashy press car, it’s fun, for a few days. By the end of the week, the attention kind of gets old. I like cars and want cars not for the attention, but for my enjoyment.
I think some of the press cars make me appreciate my E34 M5 more, yes. I get into my BMW, every single time, without fail, I always immediately love all the glass, the open greenhouse, the airy feeling, and the terrific sight lines – definitely something most modern cars are missing. I would also say that driving all these new cars does make me appreciate older cars in general, but in the same light, I appreciate newer cars for how far they’ve come in all regards, safety, technology, drivability, and livability.
[bd] Your job presents a unique opportunity to personally experience much of the latest technology in the industry. A lot of gearheads are concerned that driving – not to be confused with operation, there is a difference – is going to become a thing of the past. Ever-escalating oil prices; anemic, range-limited EVs, hordes of mindless consumers trading into driverless cars – all these stand to make enjoyment of conventional/classic machines cost-prohibitive, if not literally prohibited. How do you balance your desire for mechanically simple classic motoring with intrigue with technology’s inevitable march toward electric autonomy? What makes you nervous? What makes you hopeful?
[jf] Like any auto enthusiast, the march towards self-driving cars frightens me. That said, do you know how many people honestly don’t know how to drive well? How unsafe our roads are not because of the cars, but because the people behind the wheel haven’t had the proper training? That also frightens me.
I think there are plenty of fun new cars still coming to market. The new Focus ST and Fiesta ST are honestly a blast. In fact, I had more fun in the Focus ST than I did the Nissan GT-R on the same road on the same day. Back to back, the Focus ST provided more smiles. I have mixed feelings on the new M3/M4, and some really mixed feelings on some of the stuff coming out these days, but then there’s stuff like the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. Heavy, ridiculous, supercharged, and it has 707 horsepower, from the factory. That’s absurd, and awesome. I’m rambling again, but I guess the answer is I think there’s a balance, and we are still seeing that.
Some automakers—like McLaren—are embracing the future technology and making crazy stuff like the P1, and then there’s Porsche with its PDK transmission. I’ve driven a manual Porsche, and I’ve driven PDK. I don’t care who you are, you can’t shift faster than PDK. Not all the tech is destroying driving fun, some of it is just shifting how we have it. So the answer is electric cars aren’t evil (the Tesla Model S is awesome, and the idea of KERS is fantastic), self-driving cars will come and are necessary to a point, and fun cars still exist. It’s just different. The future is scary, but it’s coming and we must adapt. It will be what we make of it.
[bd] All the above said, where does your E34 outshine its modern, F10 equivalent? Where does it come up short? Have you had a chance to drive both?
[jf] My M5 makes noises the new F10 wishes it could make, has sightlines and a greenhouse it couldn’t dream of, and sits low with a stance from the factory the F10 can’t match. New regulations prevent some of this stuff, and other stuff is the march of time and modern engineering. That, and the F10 is simply a different car than my E34 M5.
The F10 is a really really fast grand touring sedan, where as my M5 was a four-door car they shoved a race car powertrain into. It was a four-door race car. It was the fastest four-door car in the world at the time. It was hand built. The F10 is a mainstream car. Obviously the F10 has a ton of technology my M5 doesn’t have which might make it a more “livable” daily driver, if you want to look at it that way. But my E34 has character oozing from its ITBs.
Yes, I have driven the F10, in fact, I drove it around Road America in May. It’s fast. Really, really fast. Pretty ridiculous fast for a four-door sedan that weighs a ridiculous amount. You can feel that weight, the way it shifts. The sound it makes is alright, but it’s different. At the end of the day it just felt like a really really fast 5-Series, where as my car feels like something very special. The F10 has a body kit, upgraded interior, and a bunch of badges. My M5 has two badges on the entire car, very subtle body molding, and the 540i sport seats. That’s it. It’s the powertrain and suspension that make E34 what it is. The F10 is a package. It’s not just a powertrain.
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