Sunday, February 28, 2010

RIP beautiful green E36

One of the most epic E36 you can find on this planet has had its life cut short whilst innocently parked by the street. Full article here. Send your condolences to Paul Nguyen. Let's all hope the legend will live on.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Momento: BMW Z4 sDrive35i

Some people say that when you fall in love, the emotions and the feelings you hold dear will stay with you for the rest of your life. Cynics however will point to you that falling in love in the first place is irrational and a silly idea. These cynics will probably live out their staid lives never having driven a car quite like the new Z4. Again, this new generation of roadsters from BMW have divided the motoring world into 2 camps. You either fall in love, or don't.

I personally belong to the former, i simply adore the new Z4 based on the styling alone. Classic BMW roadster proportions and a classic beltline around the car, you sit low and back with the powerful long front bonnet pushing out the shark-like nose towards the horizon.

It might be an evolution of the previous Z4 designs but the new car just oozes instant classic the moment you set your eyes on it. With design hints harking back to the beautiful BMW 507s from generations before. It looks even better then the over-the-top-retro Z8 homage. If the 507 evolved till today, here's how it will look.

This generation of the Z4 also sees the introduction of a hard-shell split folding roof. Unlike most applications, the implementation of a hard-top does not detract from the overall styling efforts. It looks great with the roof up, 20 seconds later, it'll look stunning with the roof stowed away.

The interior has been given a total new redesign for this generation, the controls are now all angled towards the driver like BMWs of before and the circular dials of this Z4 cleverly incorporates all your climate control buttons and switches. The dashboard has also been trimmed in leather. Getting in, you realise how low you actually sit, not as close to the rear axles as before but still near enough to hunker you down for some engaging drives.

Start the engine and the car rumbles into life, all 3 litres of turbocharged straight-6 power under the command of your right foot. It's alot more refined here when compared with the older car. Everything just feels a little better. I would have preferred a beefier steering wheel rim though. I just loved the chunky steering rim on the previous Z4M.

Initial impressions of the car on the move are all pretty good, with the roof up, it feels like a coupe, superb sound insulation, minimal noise and vibrations and the car feels really rock solid on the road. You do get to choose from 3 different characteristics of the car via a switch on the central tunnel. BMW calls it "Drive Dynamic Control". "Normal" which is self explanatory, "Sport" which tightens the car up slightly for a more spirited drive and finally, "Sport+" which makes the car alot more responsive, with the steering and adaptive M suspension becoming tauter, and the sport automatic transmission reacting even quicker.

One solid shove of the throttle convinced me just how special this car is.

The engine in this car is really a gem, with shorter pipes, hot gases get shot out of the rear pipes even quicker then in a 335i and creating beautiful music along the way. With the new dual-clutch 7-speed gearbox in place, upshifts are almost instantaneous coupled with the resounding backfire bark everytime you move a cog up. It is just sooo very addictive with the roof down.

I have a confession to make here, i have not spent a longer time with any other car ever. Throughout the few days i had it, all i did was go for drives just because... well, look at it, she looks like she wants to be driven.

I went in search of some of my favourite driving roads which lead me from one end of the island to another, but the truth was, the journeys in between were just as enjoyable. This Z4 is so usable on everyday roads that normal journeys taken allows you to feel just as joyful behind the wheel.

When you do find the right roads however, the sDrive35i is one crazy fast machine, it is very very easy to drive really fast in this car, whereas the older Z4 was a harder-edged machine which rattled your senses(in a good way), this new Z4 has been somewhat buttered over the knife's edge. You can cover the same roads as rapidly, but you just won't break a sweat doing it.

The previous Z4 left your palms all white, this one allows you to be a little more relaxed. Some say the BMW has softened the car, it pretty much depends on what your definition of soft is. Yes, the ride is better and yes it doesn't feel as raw as the previous Z4M does. But for most, it's not the softy they think it is. The suspension still takes in the corners with minimal roll and the car keeps pushing you to go in harder and faster with each curve. Go in too hard though, the front pushes slightly wide and understeers a little, back off the throttle slightly and you get your line back. Throttle down just after the apex, the rear end squats and 300 horses torpedo you out of the turn. It's very easy to do. In the older car, even with the traction control on, you had to be on your toes if you want to drive fast, the rear end would still wiggle you about if you're not careful. In the new Z4, you can carry the car through turns in a nicely fashioned rhythm.

It isn't really a soft car, BMW has not made the Z4 soft, rather, they have somewhat given the car a different flavour. Almost like taking the driving feel of the old Z4 and giving it a coating of butter, it's all very smooth.

The old Z4M was pretty raw and many found it hard to accept, this new Z4 allows more people access to the capabilities found in the older car, in a more refined package.

Personally, i'll be honest and say i prefer to have my palms all sweaty in the older car, i personally like my cars to be a bit raw. But too add to that point, in the previous Z4M, driving it slowly and around heavy traffic is a definite bummer. The new car is just so much more usable day to day and it takes care of the occasional spirited drive almost just as well. If we were talking about food, the old car is a meaty raw slab of steak, the new Z4 though, is more like a fillet mignon. Silly but simple way to differentiate the two. Or maybe i'm just hungry.

To finish off, i do love this car alot, i love what it can do, i love the way it sounds, the way it looks and especially the way it makes me feel. One thing i hate? I can't afford it.(Yet!)

Random Shots: Orange crush down by the street

This beautiful orange 964, stripped out, caged and totally awesome!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Toyota G'Sports@Tokyo Auto Salon 2010

Just what is G'Sports? (Or G's) To quote Toyota, the G'Sports Series, "is designed for customers who strongly desire to own a unique vehicle, offering them a personalized interior and exterior design along with sports-driving performance." Kickass in-house Toyota Tuning in other words.

The main event at the Toyota area was of course the G'Sports Turbocharged FT86. Even though i have showcased this car earlier, here are some additional pics.

I LOVE this car and i hope it comes out to production with it's aesthetics unchanged.

From what i gather, this car got the car of the show award. Well deserved.

Proving how excited the motoring world was with the FT, here's the crowd around the car on trade day.

A fully restored AE86 with a Initial-D inspired cup of water inside, sat behind the FT.

Other cars from G'Sports include this FR drivetrain Yaris with widened rear arches.

A Supercharged iQ.

A tuned up Mark X.

Even an MR-S with Hybrid Power!

If a normal Lexus IS-F is too soft for you, Toyota debuted the Circuit Club Sports (CCS) Concept. Toughening up the IS-F CCS's lightweight carbon body panels are a host of mechanical goodies. Track-tuned suspension, magnesium-alloy wheels, titanium exhaust system and even an LSD.

This little Toyota Sports 800 had been converted to run on electricity.

The LF-A racecar was also on the showfloor to add to the racing lineage.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Day 7: Shinjuku > Narita > Singapore

To be honest, day 7 isn't really an entirely brand new day. I consider it more of a continuation of day 6. What happened was the night before, i was deciding between hitting the New York Bar for a nice last night relaxing jazz whisky session, or to turn in and get up early for the first train up to Tsukiji. As you've seen, i chose to go to the New York Bar, mainly because i have been to Tsukiji before.

But as always, not everything goes according to plan, after cleaning upafter my drink, i went online, surfed around and before i knew it, it was 3:30am. I juggled with the decision to either sleep or stay up the entire night and blow almost all of what i had left on some raw fish.

I think this picture kind of tells which decision i made. That's 4:55am at the train station. Needless to say, the fish was totally awesome.

I reached Tsukiji and scurried around for a bit before i slapped myself awake and hurried towards Sushi Dai. Just in time too! I got the last seat.

The main main serving up some too-good-for-words omakase Sushi.

Everything here looked incredibly fresh. I took pictures of everything i had. Must have looked pretty funny to the locals.

Oh! Shirako again. To be honest, i cannot remember the names of everything i ate, but it all tasted totally out of this world good. It is drag-yourself-out-of-bed-at-4am good. Total damage was ¥3900, and that was almost all of what i had left in my pockets. :P

When i came out just before 6am, a queue had began to form. If you come late, the wait can be up to 3 hours just to get a seat here.

The sun was rising now and i was sleepy, i skipped the fish market walkabout (done it before), and headed back to my hotel for a quick nap.

Getting up just in time to check out of the hotel, i had my luggage stored at the lobby and went out to walk around Shinjuku one last time before i depart Tokyo. The sun was out again today and the weather was pretty pefect too. With limited funds, i found a cheap place for lunch.

Check out the prices, who said eating in Tokyo is expensive. You just need to find the right places to go.

Yummy egg...

Total cost for my lunch was about ¥400. Cheap doesn't mean low quality too, it tasted great. You get to add as much tempura crumbs as you like. I see some locals scooping massive ladelfuls.

It was pretty much time to board the bus to Narita Airport and as i stood by the sidewalk, i took a short of my surroundings.

That' be me wondering when i'll be back here again.

Sayonara Tokyo! I will be back again one day...