M Coupe: As Thrilling as a Thriller | New York Times

I stumbled across an article published in the automobile section of The New York Times October 11, 1998. It’s pretty cool to take a step back read and about the M Coupe in the early days of the it’s life.
A couple of my favorite lines from the article:

Only the fastest car BMW has ever sold in the United States…

BMW says the M Coupe is ”eigenwillig,” German for ”determinedly going its own way.” After all, if you create a monster, why keep it on a leash?


M Coupe: As Thrilling as a Thriller By JAMES G. COBB Published: October 11, 1998  IN a ''B'' movie, BMW would stitch together the M Coupe on a dark and menacing night as lightning crackled against a castle in deepest Bavaria. Slightly mad scientists would scurry among test tubes and shelves of body parts. Grave robbers would rush in with a fearsome heart -- a 3.2-liter straight six purloined from the M works down the road. A bulbous top would be planted on the curvaceous body of a Z3 roadster.  At midnight, Dr. Burkhard Goschel, a BMW product manager, would pull a lever and sparks would fly as 240 horsepower rumbled through four exhaust tips. Engineers would recoil in horror. It's alive!  But what on earth have they created?  Only the fastest car BMW has ever sold in the United States, a $42,370 Go Kart with two sport seats and room for two golf bags, with the kind of razor-edged maneuverability that Scott Doniger, the company's M brand manager, likened to ''a four-wheeled motorcycle.'' But compared with the shapely M Roadster, the M Coupe is a wide-eyed hunchback -- think of Marty Feldman in ''Young Frankenstein,'' but with Carl Lewis's reflexes. It is a monster that moves.  And however one looks at the design -- styling mishmash or inspired insanity? -- it may appeal to those self-assured enough to chart their own fashion course. Even someone initially cool to the look, evocative of George Barris's California custom cars or perhaps a pizza delivery wagon from Toon Town, may find himself admiring it after a few turns at the wheel. The M Coupe is such a blast to drive that one could love it even if it looked like an AMC Pacer.  The body is low and reptilian, with serious 17-inch tires on 9-inch-wide rims set into bulging haunches. Viewed from the rear, slightly to the side, the pieces seem to fit and the lines have tension; from the front, the roofline seems to belong on a different car.  BMW calls this a Gran Turismo coupe, an appellation once reserved for closed-body versions of open-top sports cars, long before ''GT'' labels appeared on Ford Escorts and Hyundai Accents. There are plenty of precedents for such an enclosed sports car, including the MGB-GT, the Volvo 1800ES sport wagon and the E-Type Jaguar.  Even in BMW's stable of driving machines, the M Coupe is the ultimate pony. It ostensibly weighs 47 pounds more than its sister, and its body is 2.6 times stiffer, so there is none of the M Roadster's rough-road shake. In addition to being the most rigid BMW yet, the weight is balanced perfectly, 50-50 over the front and rear wheels (the roadster's ratio is 51-49). The suspension setups are similar, but the coupe's wheelbase is half an inch longer, the springs are stiffer and the rear anti-roll bar is larger. All these changes, especially the greater stiffness, make the M Coupe behave more predictably.  Still, the handling is lively enough that it sends amusement-ride shivers -- hints of danger, never realized -- up the spine. The car squats on hard acceleration, and it is a delight to hurl around. The steering is precise and instantaneous.  With the traction control on, the rear end stayed planted while the front tangoed through twists and turns. And turning the traction off increased the thrills, allowing the wheels to spin and rubber to burn while racing through the five crisp gears.  The smooth M engine has thrust in reserve at almost any engine speed (peak torque is 236 foot-pounds at 3,800 r.p.m.). You find yourself revving the car for no reason but to hear a burble of power. From a stop, the M Coupe reaches 60 m.p.h. in a shade over five seconds, a bit slower than a Corvette. A computer chip limits the top speed to 137 miles an hour.  The coupe has its practical side. The hatch swallows enough gear for a weekend getaway, a retractable screen hides items from prying eyes, and a mesh net stretched behind the seats keeps cargo from bashing the occupants when one tests the M Coupe's very forceful brakes. But don't ruin a tire: there is no spare, just free roadside service in case of a flat.  The cabin is cozy, more cocooning than the roadster's and a bit more spacious. But the steering wheel can't be adjusted, and you should finish your root beer before leaving the A.& W. -- with no cup holders, BMW wants you to concentrate on the road.  There are just two factory options, a compact disk player ($200) integrated into the Harman Kardon stereo and a tilting glass panel for the roof ($300) that brightens the cabin but does not retract or lift off. Fog lights and an automatic transmission are not available, so drivers who don't know how to shift need not apply.  Those Sunday drivers can have their coupe and some frosting, too, with the Z3 Coupe 2.8. For $36,770 (the same price as the familiar Z3 2.8 in roadster form) BMW is offering the M Coupe's body with an updated 2.8-liter engine. The cheaper car benefits from the stiffer fixed-roof body, but it lacks the sport suspension that makes the M Coupe a beast, if not a beauty. The 2.8 can also be had with an automatic, a trip computer and the like. BMW expects to sell 800 M Coupes and 650 Z3 Coupes for 1999, but can adjust production to match demand.  Although I was initially skeptical about the need for a closed-top Z3, and especially about the far-out design, the M Coupe won me over. It is the most pleasing two-seat Bimmer yet, a rebel yell from a company often noted for its conservatism.  BMW says the M Coupe is ''eigenwillig,'' German for ''determinedly going its own way.'' After all, if you create a monster, why keep it on a leash?  INSIDE TRACK: -- A Frankenstein with the feet of Fred Astaire.
Source: nytimes.com

Leave a comment


  1. Jack Barry

     /  May 9, 2012

    Great find! What a great read. Nice stuff Jeremy!

    • Jeremy

       /  May 10, 2012

      Thanks for the kind words, Jack. I’d like to start featuring more articles about E36/8s. If you see something out there, please let me know!

  2. Jack Barry

     /  May 10, 2012

    Not sure if you have ever posted this one, but its great. Nice lil follow up to the wall streets S52 breakdown, here is Car and driver doing the S54.



    • Jeremy

       /  May 10, 2012

      Seems somewhat familiar, but probably from the magazine, not the website. Thanks for the link!


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