Even though I've owned several BMWs and currently drive one on a daily basis, I'm always slightly suspicious when a BMW wins a group test. At the back of my mind, I wonder if the writer's even bothered driving the cars, or simply guessed what would happen - it's easy to predict how the cars will behave.
And although our 335i Sport won our head-to-head test against a D3-modified Cadillac ATS, I'm really glad we took the time to get the data with our trouser dyno.
Before stepping into the Caddy, we'd already drawn several conclusions based on how it looks and expectations. But I have to admit the ATS surprised us all. It's actually a really good car.
Ultimately, it was let down by a lack of refinement and prowess but none of us would have predicted how close these cars would be in the final summation.
If you told me a few years ago that Cadillac would build a car nearly as good as the 3 Series, I'd have told you to lie down and avoid crowded spaces. Yet we carved through the canyons in a GM-built compact sedan I wasn't embarrassed to drive. In fact, I enjoyed the experience.
I'm stating this because, aside from some of the faster Mustangs and Focus, I haven't driven any other domestics I've actually enjoyed. Now admittedly, working on a title like european car magazine, our exposure is going to be limited, but we do get to drive home-grown products from time to time and are generally underwhelmed.
I'll concede that we enter our comparison tests with a favorite in mind. We're biased. Get over it. We like European cars, it's part of our job description. But that doesn't mean we're incapable of assessing other vehicles. But generally, no matter what the comparison, the Euro will be superior in almost any given market segment. So with its record of rather uninspiring products, we weren't expecting an OMG moment from the Cadillac. Yet there was a time in the canyons when each of us individually had an awakening. Without expecting it, the ATS stepped forward and made itself known.
Its biggest downfall was an ordinary automatic transmission that wouldn't live with a BMW auto, never mind the manual in our project car. It also lacked a level of refinement but then it's aimed at a different demographic. It's intended for a slice of customers who aren't exposed to Europe's finest on a daily basis and for whom the ATS will be a revelation.
And while we wouldn't take the ATS 3.6L Premium Collection over the 335i Sport, especially given the very close pricing, it's good to know that mainstream America has access to some "proper" cars. This definitely isn't your grandfather's Cadillac.
So while Ezekiel was getting giddy and giggly over the classics at Pebble Beach, I had more fun at The Quail, where the cars aren't quite so old. I'll also confess to slipping out of the main activities to put a few miles on the rare BMW HP4 superbike - three tanks of fuel and 6.5 hours, if anybody's counting. It was an epic ride on an epic machine that will surely be displayed at Pebble in 50 years' time.
As well as the generous folks at BMW, the ride wouldn't have been as enjoyable without my new gear from Alpinestars. I've always preferred the brand and they didn't let me down. Check out our online review for full details.
In this issue we're introducing Augmented Reality, which is a new way to look at our publication. By downloading an app, you can view items with the AR logo in an entirely new way. Some of the ads in this issue, for example, will have expanded video or 3D exploded views to let you really get inside the products. We're also hoping to have AR elements in our editorial features as the technology rolls out. So look for the AR logo in the mag to explore the possibilities.
Sadly we wave cheerio to Ezekiel Wheeler, who's leaving us to gaze at clunkers and rust - he's an old fogey in a boy's body, but we wish him well.
Although responsible for eurotuner.com he was our unofficial classic car expert. You've never seen anybody so excited by patina as Zeke.
He'll be missed, along with his unique wardrobe, but hopefully we can persuade him to assist us with the occasional classic car from time to time...