In case you learn Chris Harris’ poignant column, you’ll perceive why this will provoke soul looking from automotive people. Is it honest or sporting to chide the BMW M2 for having all of the visible attraction of a gangrenous battle wound, to mark down Porsche as soon as once more for becoming the Cayman with the gearing from an Intercity practice, and to sneer that RS3s are essentially the most obnoxiously pushed vehicles in Europe?
Pictures: Mark Riccioni
There’s a powerful aroma of ‘take pleasure in this lot whilst you can’ about all of this. Purchase one other spherical. Don’t take into consideration the hangover.
Anyway, we could cheer up? This isn’t a funeral wake. These are three incredible vehicles. Two of them, you’ll have observed, aren’t very new. Henry V used a Cayman GT4 at Agincourt and the Audi RS3, identical to a good few of its house owners, is approaching a midlife disaster.
However these are the quick, fancy badged Germans that many aspire to – 453bhp twin-turbo straight six BMW performs 414bhp flat six Porsche and 394bhp turbo 5 pot Audi. It’s truly wonderful within the petrol engine’s twilight that there’s nonetheless a lot selection.
We thought of bringing some humbler 4 cylinder contenders alongside: an Alpine A110, or the brand new Honda Civic Sort R. Each are dealing with benchmarks that seduce you into loving driving yet again. Each compete intently worth sensible. However one way or the other, this felt like the pure grudge match. Is anybody contemplating an M2 cross-shopping it with a French tadpole powered by a Megane engine? M vs GT vs RS – that’s the place issues get tribal.
I’ve spent a couple of days with the M2 earlier than pointing it in direction of the North Yorkshire moors, questioning why it doesn’t entice just like the previous automotive. Why is it not so instantly likeable, moreover trying like a Halloween pumpkin in mid-November? In any case, it’s a quantifiably improved product versus its bestselling predecessor. Plusher. Quieter. Simpler. Extra grown up.
I suppose the draw back is the M2 has been ‘made higher’ in all of the ways in which matter least to petrosexuals. Extra refined, extra spacious, greater screens. A automotive of extra bandwidth to extra individuals extra of the time – however as a result of maturing has been made a much bigger precedence than enjoyable, us lot really feel our noses have been put out of joint.
Together with our left leg. Sure it’s all very effectively eulogising the DIY-shift Beemer, however due to the idiotic carbon velocity bump between your legs and the proper offset pedals, altering gear within the M2 isn’t the pleasure it needs to be.
The clutch journey is just too lengthy and spongy, and explaining away the chafe marks it leaves in your thigh can be awkward at residence. And for this cobbled collectively afterthought, you pay an additional £545. Just one in 10 M2 consumers are permitting BMW to take the mickey that tough – 90 per cent of them are sticking with the usual auto, which makes the infant M really feel much more grown up.
Paradoxically, the M2 solely actually wants fourth to demolish a highway. The three.0-litre engine is an absolute energy tower. Sounds a contact diesely, nevertheless it delivers a truck-sized slug of torque from 2,500rpm whereas the Audi’s 5 pot wants to essentially be spinning 1k extra to do its finest work. It’s gone to the workplace and earned a promotion earlier than the RS3’s motor is even away from bed.
The gearlever itself feels completely set to vibrate, too. As you’re feeling it fizzing within the criminal of your palm, there’s an actual sense the M2 is slightly scorching rod, struggling to comprise its energy.
And but in contrast to the final M3, this isn’t a fighty automotive. How has BMW performed that? Successfully constructed a brief wheelbase M4 with all that turbocharged wallop, however not one of the cor blimey traction limitations or motorway slip highway swappers. That’s a really intelligent trick… even when a few of that gnarly M2 character has been smoothed over.
Nevertheless it feels massive and it feels heavy, on roads the place the Cayman is in its component and the RS3 is best than a quick Audi has any enterprise being. The RS3 is sort of a rocket sled. It has two speeds: stationary and flat out. It’s the one that you simply’ll get your cash’s value in first, extracting 101 per cent simply popping to the retailers. Sure, there’s lag to take care of, and also you sit perched on a woefully lacklustre chair going through a deeply underwhelming cabin pondering “How on earth can this dreary combine of faux piano black wooden and pixels be value 50 grand?” nevertheless it’s so addictively, ruthlessly quick and makes such an evocative, trumpeting noise because it rushes alongside, you’ll end up forgiving it.
Regardless of myself, I like the plastic incredible RS3. I really like that it’s an Audi Sport product that doesn’t journey like a trolley jack. I really like that it could possibly mooch about politely like an A3, and on the faucet of an RS button it goes berserk. Because of its intelligent rear differential it’s not all about ready for the entrance finish to grip – the again axle helps out and fires the automotive out of corners like an plane provider’s slingshot. It’s not a tactile, suggestions wealthy life-affirmer: it’s the automotive that you simply’ll ‘full’ first. However there’s a level at which uncooked tempo and an anachronistic engine is simply undeniably seductive. So although it dismantles tyres and glugs gas, it runs the generally frustratingly aloof M2 nearer than BMW would really like.
Inevitably, individuals can be cross we’ve introduced a Cayman alongside. A GT4, too. “A Cayman’s not a correct M2 rival as a result of it’s solely obtained two seats,” somebody on Twitter may say if it nonetheless existed. Don’t child your self. The M2’s wanting rear headroom and the massive carbon seats can’t lean ahead far sufficient to let anybody in. Even essentially the most agile youngster will scuff the heck out of the dear carbon-shelled backrests on their well beyond. And moreover, when was the final time you actually noticed an M2 (or any German coupe) four-up? The seats are there to assuage your guilt, not persuade you an M2 is a household saloon.
“A Cayman’s not a correct M2 rival as a result of it isn’t sensible sufficient.” Er, are you positive? The nostril compartment is sufficiently big for a few airline pleasant keep on circumstances and there’s a rear boot to your hand baggage. There are massive door pockets and the very best cupholders ever devised.
The Cayman is the very best packaged, finest constructed sports activities automotive cash should buy, and has been for 10 years
“It’s too low and tough to climb out and in of.” True, the hip level is way nearer to the bottom, however the carbon-shelled seats are simply as anatomy troubling as those within the BMW.
The very fact is the Cayman is the very best packaged, finest constructed sports activities automotive cash should buy, and has been for 10 years or extra. The cabin appears dated lately, what with all of the wise buttons and needles on clock faces as a substitute of screens, however that’s downright refreshing after encountering the BMW multiplex, and also you solely must spend a matter of minutes inside to revel within the inherent ‘rightness’. The driving place, the management weights – they’re completely judged to wash you in confidence. The Cayman is a vastly flattering automotive. It doesn’t punish your errors, nevertheless it’s completely satisfied to indulge your ego. In some way regardless of the large grip it generates, there’s a daintiness to it the opposite vehicles can’t get near.
You don’t want the £82k GT4. The £73k GTS 4.0 can be simply pretty much as good as a every day driver. Higher, in truth, as a result of with a smaller rear wing you may see what’s behind you. The one motive individuals bang on concerning the Porsche’s intergalactic gearing is as a result of that’s the one stone that Porsche left unturned in perfecting the fashionable sports activities automotive. Ace on monitor, genius on highway, and eminently usable. It has the very best steering right here, the damping has a motorsport high quality of unflappability to it, and the gearshift is a mechanically satisfying delight that murders the BMW’s effort. The noise? Sonorous, however not delinquent. What a machine.
I genuinely imagine that when the solar units on this period of Cayman, it’ll line up alongside the likes of the MkV Golf GTI and E46 BMW M3 as an actual world all-time nice. A kind of ‘we have been too harmless to comprehend it on the time, however that was about pretty much as good because it will get’ sort of vehicles.
I ought to interrupt my very own gushing to inform you that you could’t truly purchase one. Sorry. The GT4 mannequin is now discontinued, as Porsche concentrates the remaining dregs of manufacturing on the psychotic GT4 RS. However none of those vehicles are straightforward to come back by. I’ve heard rumblings that the UK’s M2 allocation was spoken for even earlier than any landed on these shores, so count on to see them buying and selling over checklist worth. The RS3’s limiting issue is that Audi can’t construct the five-pot motor shortly sufficient, now it additionally finds houses in two totally different TTs, Q3s and RS3s, and it’s a brown stain on the fleet CO2 depend.
So, given we’re now approaching the tip of days, does it matter if there’s an outright winner? Arguably not, however I can’t resist a ending order. And on the high, it’s the Porsche. Each time I drove it, I swooned at its all-conquering brilliance. And wished the M2 was giving me the identical pangs of ‘need’. What extra might you probably need from a sports activities automotive?
The ‘need’ was lacking after I first drove the M2 in Arizona earlier this yr. A greater, extra rounded automotive, gaining manners but missing magic. However that was a solely a few hours on some risible roads BMW itself had inexplicably chosen. So, a couple of months later up on the moors, I obtained up actually early on a crisp morning and gave the M2 one other likelihood. It changed into one in every of These Drives. The place there aren’t any dawdling Vauxhall Mokkas, no contraflows, no caravans. The potholes appeared to have healed in a single day and the M2’s turbos gorged themselves on cool, dense air.
Because the tempo quickened, the BMW’s suspension continued to stream the place the Audi’s was getting caught quick, nonetheless reacting to what had gone earlier than whilst you’re presenting it with a brand new piece of highway. It pogos and porpoises and, ultimately, calls time on the RS3’s Street Runner tempo. That is the place the M2 will get into its stride. Like most up-to-date M vehicles, you solely begin to perceive how proficient it’s while you’re travelling faster than strictly advisable. That’s the place the Cayman’s lip smacking steadiness and poise is a deal with. It makes apexing a mini-roundabout rewarding, as that low slung centre of gravity pivots about your kidneys
The M2 drives prefer it appears. Burly. Broad shouldered and unapologetic. If it have been an individual it’d crack your knuckles when it shook you by the hand, with a glint within the eye that it’d performed so intentionally to claim alpha male dominance. That may not be your cup of tea nevertheless it completely has persona, and it leaves an impression. Simply maybe, not fairly the GOAT you may’ve hoped.
1: Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
Sure, it is essentially the most cash, nevertheless it’s the consummate sports activities automotive. Correct ‘final tank of petrol’ stuff. 9/10
2: BMW M2
An actual grower (other than the appears). Vastly extra refined than the previous M2, so the magic wants looking for out. 8/10
3: Audi RS3 saloon
Higher than you’d ever think about from Audi Sport. Simply lacks the final phrase in polish, however it’s a formidable every day driver. 8/10