Originally Posted by SGladwell
Performance is perhaps the dumbest category on which to judge cars, because there is not a single car to my knowledge sold in America that is incapable of single-digit 0-60 acceleration - see above explanation of "single-digit" - and a top speed well in excess of any posted speed limit anywhere in the country. In other words, there is effectively no new car - I'm excluding trucks/SUVs on the assumption that we're all decent people - that is low-performance. The problem with very high performance is that it is very deleterious to cars of all stripes In terms of the driving experience. There are two primary reasons for this apparent paradox.
First, the insane obesity epidemic in the automotive industry. Simple physics that CAD cannot alter dictate that a 3500lb car is going to be much more ponderous to drive than a 2500lb car. Especially if that 3500lb car has a heavier engine up front, and thus inferior weight distribution. And above 4000lbs, you might as well put on your shiny brass button DB blazer when you're behind the tiller, because your experience will be nothing but nautical. However, with practically everyone having a 400hp engine available and modern wide and sticky tires, these boats can go extremely fast. Though note that a car with modern technology and reasonable mass will perform truly astoundingly in some areas of performance; according to edmunds.com the 2500lb Miata stops shorter than the expensive, fast, and porcine BMW M3.
The second reason, ironically enough, is that the imperative of improving performance for look good in magazine copy is in direct opposition to enhancing the amount of feel and control offered the driver in realistic conditions. The faster a car is designed to go, the less that its designers can afford to allow the driver to feel anything at speeds he will actually be allowed to drive. That's why the driving experience of most new "sports sedans" (BMW 3-Series, A4, G35, and so on) sucks so hard compared to obsolete sedans such as the BMW 2000 or Triumph 2500PI. And anything bigger than those is a failure before you start it up, unless you have someone to drive you around.
PS: The only thing uglier than a Chris Bungle 6-series is a Chris Bungle 6-series with a Dodge grill grafted on top.
You're comparison does not work. You can't compare a car the size of the BMW 2000, with the required specifications and technology of its day with a modern M3 (E46). You might as well compare a 1937 MB 540K Spezial Roadster to an SLR. The safety requirements (airbags, ABS, ESP, etc...) add quite a bit of weight to a modern car. Plus, the modern cars are bigger. You can fit 4 people in perfect comfort and their luggage in an M3, whereas you would have problems doing the same in a 2000.
Also, the 2000 doesn't have anywhere the radio system, Nav, hands-free communication, steering wheel controls, power seats, etc... that a modern M3 has. Which of course, add weight to the car. At the same time the 2000 doesn't stop anywhere as well as the M3, isn't as fast, and can't corner as well in both perfectly dry and completely horrendous driving conditions.
But, yes, the steering wheel feel on the 2000 is better. But, if you equate better steering feel to a better driving experience...then to each his own.