It's no secret that lightweight cars are more fun. It's a fact; a sad fact actually because car with sporty badges (M, R, S, RS, AMG) are fun but could be so much better. It seems as if the formula for these halo cars is a big motor, bulging fenders, tons of weight and a healthy price tag, but you're being fooled.
Just like the dude in a lifted pickup with train horns and Monster Energy stickers, these cars pack big displacement punches to compensate for what they'll never really be: nimble.
In last month's issue you'll have read about our epic journey in two undeniably awesome cars, the Audi RS5 and BMW M3. Both were great, but are also overweight, and driving the piss out of them got me wondering; where did we go wrong?
Everything is bigger, heavier and more powerful, but do the math and you'll see not much speed has been gained. Power to weight is everything and, frankly, agility has been tossed out the window. And don't come back at me with crap about safety standards being beefed up - if we can land a rover on Mars, making safe, lightweight cars shouldn't be an issue.
Regardless of your love for European cars, you're not oblivious to what's going on outside this niche. The Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ has made waves in the market and there were hundreds at SEMA 2012.
The car is downright awesome. It's underpowered, yes, but you'll stop caring about that when you realize how much unrestricted fun you're having tossing its 2758 lb around a corner, when the rear-end steps out and you're bouncing off the rev limiter on full opposite lock.
Oh, and back to that safety thing. The FR-S/BRZ is one of the only sports cars to be an IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) Top Safety Pick, earning good ratings in front, side, rear and roof impacts.
Find me a current rear-wheel drive European car that will do this. You can't. The Lotus Evora weighs 3047 lb and has the FR-S beat by 76hp but costs $40,000 more. Admittedly, I'm comparing kiwis to cantaloupes, but I'm trying to prove a point.
The 3 Series Coupe weighs about 3400 lb, with the 1 Series coming in only 200 lb less. To me, the 1 Series was an opportunity to get a jump on Scion/Subaru and while the 135i and 1M are undoubtedly exciting, they're still bloated in both the waistline and price.
I fully understand the majority of people use their cars for work, take the kids to the mall and maybe have some fun when possible. But for the Euro enthusiast looking for the fun the FR-S offers, you'll need an E30 M3; a car produced 26 years ago.
Of course I'd choose an E30 M3 over the Scion but it's sad that all Europe has for a rebuttal is this older car. It's about the power-to-weight ratio; it's the oldest trick in the book. Supercharge an E92 M3 and keep another stock but gut it completely and you'll be surprised which is more fun to drive.
This is my request. I want a European automobile that costs less than 30 grand, is built for fun and won't be difficult or stupidly expensive to modify. This isn't much to ask for, but the market is currently flooded with well-built, tech-savvy cars with huge motors, exotic exhaust notes and tank-like crash beams. It's time to explore another direction.