1995 Porsche 993 

vs 

2002 BMW M Roadster

By

A.J.
 


My dad was into Ferrari's when I was a kid, and owned a few. Back when they didn't cost as much as a house. An accident in the garage (which is detailed in one of the product descriptions in the Griot's Garage catalong!) brought the glory days to an end in the 1970's. This fall he finally got up the nerve/financing to enter into the sports car world again, and bought the M Roadster. I have only driven it a few times, the first being during the initial break-in period, so I haven't spent a lot of seat time. These comments are based on "first impressions". But aren't most test drives the same thing??

Acceleration
As with all of BMW's latest offerings, the acceleration is very impressive. Torque is the first thing that I noticed, from way down on the tach. Driving my 993 for a few years now, it's something that is very unexpected and almost foreign. And lovely. The torque of the M reminded me of the Viper that I was lucky enough to drive last spring. Not nearly the same prodigious amount, but early and nice and linear. I didn't drive the cars back to back, so the whole time I was comparing in my mind to the 993, and always came to the same conclusion: the M is faster, no matter how I look at it. The 993 engine is so peaky, it drives like a turbo in comparison. Below 4000 rpm, it's imperative to shift if it's time to scoot. There's a huge surge at about 4500 rpm, and I try to convince myself that in that sweet spot, the 993 FEELS faster than the M. But I don't believe myself.

Handling
The M doesn't have the baja-offroad wheel to fender clearance that the Porsche's have. The M suspension is much more firm. Part of the firmness is enhanced by the rock hard seats in the M. Makes my standard 993 seats feel like a couch in comparison. I haven't been on a long drive in the M, but I wouldn't be surprised if parts of your butt fell asleep. I love the seats, though. I surely wouldn't feel the need to upgrade like I do with my 993 seats. Heck, even my wife wants me to get racing seats!!

I digress - on the Kentucky twisty country roads, the M is a fun car to be in, with the top down. But the suspension just isn't as inspiring. The overall impression I had was the rear end wasn't planted down (Michelin Pilot Sport tires). There was good feel and good feedback, but what that feedback told me was the outside rear tire was starting to slip a little. Almost as if the center tread blocks were starting to squirm. They WERE brand new tires, maybe that's all it was. But it was a lot earlier than what would happen in the 993, and I was reminded that this was an unfamiliar car, I was in the woods with trees right up to the road, and dad was next to me. I didn't push it, because I didn't feel like the car wanted me to. 

The 911 has that wonderfully distinct feel to the handling that is like nothing else. Let me try to explain this, a physical visualization: close your eyes, picture yourself driving a normal car standing up straight. Going hard around a left hand turn, your body is pulled to the right, and you go up on the ball of your right foot a little, assuming front engine. In the 911, you are pulled to the right but lean back on your heel. Add some uneven pavement, then start moving your hips in a circular motion. What a feeling!!

Interior 
I love the interior of the M. Some hate it. I like the chrome bezels, the simple almost retro look. The materials are top notch. Even the rear view mirror is chrome. The instruments are logical, but nothing exciting. The background is gray, which is baffling. I don't like that part. Dad's car has the two tone black and red leather. We like it, but could see that being a controversial opinion. It might be view as gaudy by some. The 911 interior is classic, but I hear a few too many squeaks for my tastes. And not all from the windshield. There's something up in the headliner right by my left ear that's aggravating. As mentioned before, my seats are extremely comfortable, but not quite sporty enough. Despite my wife's desires, I'm not ready to install racing seats and lose the use of the rear seats. I actually use them. I prefer my instruments. They're they way it should be done. I would prefer to have the white face gages, but I don't like all the black cutouts for the warning lights. Essentially, to get the best of the best 993 interior, you gotta spend some big bucks, or get an "S" so they're standard (aluminum shifter/handbrake, etc).

Styling
The 993 and M Roadster aren't really apples and apples. And I've never been in a 993 Cab. I think the M has a more natural look with the top down. I've never warmed up to the rear boot on the Cab. One of my favorite design cues of the 911 is the rear quarter window and the rear fender area. You lose that with the cab. I never was wild about the styling of the Z3, either. I'm not a fan of the British roadsters, and I think that's who the Z3 is aimed squarely at. The long hood/short rear end is what I have the biggest problem with. The rear end, like the Viper, is an afterthought. Something thrown together to connect the lines of the rear fenders. The design cues of the M do it a lot of good, but it's still not very photogenic. But in person, it's a different story. The front splitters look impressive, and the rear fenders are similar to the 993's. And I LOVE the angel eyes - that's what they call the rings that light up around the headlamps. As for the 993 - it's a modern classic.

Brakes
This is the area that I explored the least. They definitely seemed grippy, but I didn't do any high speed plunges, and I haven't heard of anyone who has tried an M Roadster on the track.

Driving Experience
Over all, the M Roadster came across as a European hot rod. Very fast, if almost a bit brutal. But the biggest thing lacking is the sound. There is a metallic vibration that dad's car has that is the dominant noise at high rpm's. I asked about it, but he didn't notice what I was talking about. I don't know how he could miss it. With the drilled airbox and stock mufflers, the 993 positively roars at high rpm. I did the airbox holes mod last year, and it still brings huges grins to my face.

The M Roadster is a more modern car, and it is stiffer and more...modern. The gearbox is so tight, and so precise, it almost seems fragile. I couldn't make up my mind if I liked it or not. The 993 gearbox feels as if it's begging you into the next gear. Very fast shifting is possible with minimal effort or concentration. On the M, I found myself concentrating more on getting the next gear properly, partly because I had to make sure I did it safely, partly because dad was sitting next to me. The 993 is more like a well-broken in ball glove or leather shoe. Not sparkling new, nor is it as tight and crisp, but it fits my body perfectly, and it seems to know what I want and how I'm going to get it.
 
 

A.J.
 
 


 

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