Merry old England is a fabulous place to visit, a world of thatched cottages and historic pubs, cobbled streets and warm beer. But while we want the look and feel of traditional England, if the there was no central heating, if feces flowed through the streets and visible bacteria danced in our pint glass, we'd be out of here like a shot. Old World charm goes so far, but we like our modern world comforts.
So it is with cars-for some of us at least. I'd love a classic English sports car but don't want to live with the breakdowns, rust, rattles, brake failures, and the sound of metal folding like paper as it strikes a three-ton SUV. I'm difficult like that, but I could live with the Wiesmann MF4-S. That's because it's a classic car that's built today, right now. This is the Swinging Sixties roadster built around an aluminum monocoque and a BMW M3 DCT drivetrain... by Germans.
We were blown away by their range-topping MF5 that housed the near-nuclear BMW V10. Then PR man Frank Schutz told us to get our asses to Dulmen, as the smaller 414-hp V8-powered roadster could just be their best car yet. He wasn't lying.
The whole lineup has the visual consistency of Aston Martin, that is to say only a car buff could tell them apart. The mid-level MF4-S is smaller and lacks the aerodynamic flips and vents that gave the Wiesmann away as a modern hypercar under the skin, so this one looks like a genuine step back in time. And it is simply gorgeous.
There are delicious details at every twist and curvaceous turn, perfectly managed collisions between old and new, from the perfectly curved rear end punctuated by LED lights through the low-slung sides to the old style grille on the nose.
The color, gray with a blush of pink running through its core, won't be for everyone, and the color-coded wheels, deep pink tonneau cover, and dark red interior perhaps take it too far, but then the choices of colors and combinations of leather and Alcantara is almost infinite and stitched together by grizzled old ladies on the Wiesmann factory floor in the old fashioned way. They don't do robots here. It's a craftsman's paradise.
The inside too is a step back in time: drawstring stowage spaces, simple polished steel door catches, and old-school dials built into a driver-facing center console. There's no real indication that this is a low-volume manufacturer either, there's none of the interesting quirks and the leather is laid down perfectly. But look closely at the cockpit and the Old World charm doesn't feel entirely right. There are new plastic vents, Alcantara-quilted seats, a modern-day stereo, and an LCD screen behind the wheel.
Then there are the plastic paddle shifters behind the wheel, two perfectly milled pedals below, and when I turn the key and push the starter button, the modern day world erupts around me and settles into the deep menacing thrum of a BMW V8 mated to a free-flowing, fuel-dribbling exhaust that gives Bavaria's finest the Messerschmitt resonance BMW's engineers go to sleep dreaming about. A blip of the throttle sends the birds scattering from the nearby trees, and then it's out the factory gates with a tally ho and a toodle pip. The Wiesmann adventure is about to begin. And when it does, it happens without a single, horrific jerk.
There was no doubting the BMW M5 V10 on a hard charge. It's a fantastic engine, but the SMG seven-speed that came with it seemed built solely for the racetrack. That cumbersome transmission lies in the range-topping Wiesmann MF5 supercar until BMW can forget it entirely, and while it feels less jerky in the lighter sports car, it's still a blight on the driving experience.
No more-BMW's brilliant new double clutch system might have taken longer to come to market than VW's, but it was worth the wait, and this is now a sports car you can simply slot in drive and enjoy at sedate pace with seamless, creamy gearchanges from the seven-speed DCT. And Wiesmann knows a thing or two about ride quality, too.
Looking at it from the side it simply doesn't make sense, because the MF4 is low, taut, and aggressive, and those Michelin Pilot Sports wrap around the 18-inch BBS wheels like rubberbands.
Yet the Wiesmann cruises down the high street with utter grace and poise and despite the wind noise getting a little reckless beyond 100 mph, it's a wondrous world of comfort and joy. That's in part down to those stunning seats, which cosset and support in equal measure, but it's also down to a sublime chassis setup built around a Lotus-style monocoque that combines this cruising capability with simply epic performance.
Because this is, when all said and done, M3 power in a much lighter package, and it comes alive on the quieter roads away from Dulmen. The Wiesmann weighs in at 2,890 pounds full of fluids, 30 percent less than the M3, so this thing goes like a rocketship. Boot the throttle and the Michelins chirp as I click second gear, then third. Wiesmann claims it hits 62 mph in 4.4 seconds, but it feels faster, and the car just keeps hammering down the road, with a click of the right finger, all the way to 200 mph. As with the M3, it needs revs and there isn't much torque to play with, but when the engine powers to 8500 rpm that's not a major issue.
And it handles like an M3 that weighs a third less. It can be thrown into bends, and while a '60s sports car would simply hit a tree and catch fire, the Wiesmann enjoys all the benefits of BMW's traction control system and skates elegantly through to the other side. It's here that the V8 shows its individual strength, too; with less weight over the front end than the V10 it feels sharper, crisper at the nose, and this is what makes it the best in the range.
It's monumentally expensive. This car costs $200,000-Lamborghini and Ferrari money-but with the intoxicating blend of old English charm and brutal German engineering precision, the Wiesmann is an offbeat alternative for those who dream of a classic car but don't want to deal with the flowing feces that go with it.
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
4.0-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve
Seven-speed DCT automated manual
Double wishbone, anti-roll bar (f), double wishbone and trailing link, anti-roll bar (r)
Dual-piston sliding calipers with 374mm perforated composite rotors (f), single-piston sliding calipers with 370mm perforated composite rotors (r)
Length/Width/Height (in.): 166.9/74/48.4
Wheelbase: 98.7 (in.)
Curb Weight: 2,888 lb
Peak Power: 414 hp @ 8300 rpm
Peak Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm
0-62 mph: 4.3 sec.
Top Speed: 200 mph