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Journeys : Dec Jan 2010
Best Sports Car Under $80k BMW 135i Coupe, $72,800 Driveline: 3.0-litre, 6-cyl twin-turbo, 6-speed manual Fuel economy: 9.2L/100km, PULP Safety features: DFSA, CA, ESC, TCS, ABS ANCAP: n/a GVG: Cars in this class are meant to have strong appeal for enthusiasts courtesy of their finely-honed road skills, bring that grin of satisfaction to a keen driver's face. The BMW 135i Coupe certainly delivers in ear-to-ear fashion, and is a worthy winner for a second year against some very impressive machines. The 135i is a fantastic substitute for BMW's terrific M3 (which finished third in the Luxury Sports Car category) but for less than half the price. That said, it's still one of the more expensive vehicles in this sub-$80,000 category, and low scores for pricing and depreciation ref lect this. Running and repair costs also rate rather sadly. However these aren't critical considerations for buyers of such cars. And when the 135i Coupe is such a joy on the road, indiscretions in those mundane monetary matters could easily be forgotten. Inside the 135i there is leather-trimmed seating for four. The front seats give excellent support, side bolstering and adjustability and even the rear seats are well-shaped, although rear space is only fair. Together with a well-laid-out cabin, the 135i scores top marks for both comfort and ergonomics. There's a lengthy list of standard equipment and safety features, including a full complement of airbags plus advanced stability and traction control systems. An M-Sport package is also standard. For those wanting extra fruit, there are plenty of premium-priced option s. The 135i is a scintillating performer, thanks to its 225kW twin-turbo, direct-injection, 3.0-litre straight-six engine that has won international design awards. They don't come much sweeter or more willing right to the redline, and there's a great soundtrack to match. With maximum torque of 400Nm available from 1300 to 5000rpm, it's very strong and f lexible, so drivers can choose to be a bit lazy about downshifts if they want. But the crisp action of the six-speed manual box is more likely to encourage shifts, especially in press-on driving conditions. There's an optional six- speed auto with paddle shifts, too. BMW's rear-drive coupe has almost ideal 50:50 weight distribution for enhanced chassis balance and lively, nimble handling. Combine this with terrific grip levels and communicative steering and it's easy for a driver to feel very much at one with the 135i. Unlike many sports cars, ride quality also rates highly and is achieved without detriment to handling, thanks to clever suspension design and tuning. The high-performance brake system, with advanced functions including brake pre-tensioning, brake drying and brake fade compensation, delivers consistently strong retardation rates, complementing the engine's abilities and yielding the 135i another top on-road score. Scoring nothing less than nine out of 10 in all areas of our on-road assessment, the 135i really has the credentials necessary to be recognised as a great driver's car. 2nd -- Volkswagen Golf R32 3rd -- Subaru Impreza STI Best Luxury Sports Car Audi TT-S TFSI Quattro $98,900 Drivetrain: 2.0L 4cyl, 6-speed dsg Fuel economy: 7.9l/100km, UPULP Safety features: DFSA, CA, ABS, TCS, ESC ANCAP: NA GVG: Audi TTS is a class performer that typifies the new breed of sports cars in the new millennium, so it is no surprise that it has retained the gong it won last year in this hero class. Although it does not have the muscle- straining cor nering grip or neck-wrenching acceleration and retina- bulging braking of the new Nissan GTR, it does have the best overall package that allows for both fun and function in a sports car. The TTS's styling is now quintessential Audi and has grow n more elegant with each new model, and as such it includes the distinctive line of LED daytime run ning lights that are set to become a signature for Audi. This year the performance benchmarks in the luxury sports car class were bounced to another level by the Nissan GTR, but in a very competitive field even the GTR's great performance couldn't lift it out of the middle of the bunch when the numbers were crunched. Luxury sports cars aren't for everyone, firstly because of the price -- most of this group start at $100,000. Secondly the performance focus means that often comfort and city drivability have to be compromised. Where the Audi TTS gets it right and maintains the high ground is in the areas of value for money and basic design and function. It doesn't fare so well in the list of standard features but this is the balance between the price and what you get in that price. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder TTS turbo-charged engine is the smallest engine in the class but coupled with its lightweight body this is enough to have the TTS whistling up to 100km /h in just over five seconds. This world-class sprint pace isn't just a result of the free-spinning engine but also the ability for the six-speed DSG clutchless manual transmission (which shifts in times that have to be measured in hundredths of seconds) to get this power into the all-wheel-drive system and onto the ground. You have all the handling and perfor mance you're going to need in a sports car and yet still feel at home driving in the city. The ride and handling is managed by Audi's magnetic ride adaptive damping system, which electronically controls the flow properties of the fluid in the shock absorbers instantly. The TTS does all of this while still achieving the best fuel con sumption rating in the class. It comes down to first principles in that if you build a car that is light and rigid, you don't have to deal with the handling, fuel consumption and braking issues inherent in heavier vehicles. But it's not all good news, because like most two-door contenders in this category, the rear seats are for kids (or adults on very short trips) only. 2nd -- Audi S4 TFSI quattro 3rd--BMWM3 December 09 / January 10 41
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