Opposite Lock: Why the E30′s True Successor is a Toyota

Featured Posts, Interesting | January 24th, 2012 by 62
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The iconic BMW E30 has now been debated, glorified, worshiped and written about ad nauseum. If you haven’t owned an E30, and you’ve never had …

The iconic BMW E30 has now been debated, glorified, worshiped and written about ad nauseum. If you haven’t owned an E30, and you’ve never had the chance to drive one, all of this fuss over a 30 year old car must be driving you properly nuts. What could possibly be so special about a car released the same year as Michael Jackson’s Thriller album?

Rather a lot, actually. The E30 ascended to cult-classic status because its parts coalesced into one harmonious whole. The E30 was a driving instrument that sought to convey every bit of sensory information possible from the road surface to your brain. Strapping into the E30 was like plugging an HDMI cable into your head – the other end gathering data from the contact patches. As you made progress down the road, this car remained raw and honest. If you only let it, it would please you until you ran out of fuel, tires, or brakes. To put it simply, the E30 delivered purity unmatched by modern cars.

Opposite Lock: Why the E30s True Successor is a Toyota

Fast forward to the current millennium and you will find a car-scape mostly devoid of precision driving instruments. Burdened with comfort, technology and safety appendages, modern cars have grown in weight. Through the years they’ve also gown layers, incrementally distancing you, the driver, from the sensory experience. The latest layer to surface between driver and road has risen from the necessity of increased efficiency. Electronic power steering replaces the hydraulic pump that used to reduce the muscle needed in wheeling your steed. Somehow, in the application of this technology, the subtleties wiggling up through the steering shaft have been erased – or at least, reduced. Even the Porsche 911 – fabled for its telepathic steering feel – has fallen prey to this technology, though reviews thus far suggest the damage is limited.

At the racetrack or on a snaking road, only a car free of sensory callus can carry you to driving nirvana. The magical pixie dust of the E30 is no magic at all – it’s a mechanical simplicity that connects you to the driving experience. In the quintessential linguistic contradiction: less is more.

Opposite Lock: Why the E30s True Successor is a Toyota

Let’s distill the E30 down to its fundamental ingredients. The car was lightweight, the M3 tipping the scales at a scant 2,865 lbs – earlier non-M models dipping as low as 2,460 lbs. All E30s were rear-wheel drive, save for the iX one-off which pioneered the 3 series’ first AWD system. A manual gearbox was standard. Six-cylinder models and sports four-cylinder models came equipped with a limited-slip differential. While the engines on offer varied widely in power, all engines were responsive and free-revving – save for the Euro market diesels.

The above, in a nutshell, defines the essential DNA of a pure sports car: lightweight, rear-wheel drive, manual gear selection, and responsive, free-revving power delivered through a limited-slip differential. You cannot overlook any of these ingredients without undoing a helmet-full of driving fun. Add much on top of these ingredients, and you begin to distract from the purity of the car.

So then, what cars in the market place today were baked to simple perfection using the prescribed ingredients? All Lotus cars, the Mazda Miata, the Porsche Cayman, Boxster and 911 GT3 RS, all Caterham cars, the Weismann MF4-S, and a few other small-batch independent sports cars. By and large, the short list is very, very short. Recent favorites such as the Honda S2000 and Mazda RX-8 have gone the way of the cassette player, and their presence is sorely missed.

Opposite Lock: Why the E30s True Successor is a Toyota

Of course, all of these cars fail to embody the essence of the iconic E30. For one reason or another, they all miss the mark in some way. The car that comes closest is arguably the Mazda Miata. It combines all essential ingredients into a handsome package, at a reasonable price point. Yet the Miata is still slightly soft relative to the E30 of its day – particularly the E30 M3, which had a telescopic focus on performance. The others on the short list are overpriced, bordering on exotic – which the E30 was not. What we’re looking for is the simple everyday performance car – attainable, and thrilling, for all. And if our candidate is to truly match the E30, it must also have a side of practicality and everyday utility – just as the E30 mustered.

Opposite Lock: Why the E30s True Successor is a Toyota

Enter the long awaited Toyota FT-86. That the name Toyota has even appeared in the acclaimed company of the aforementioned sports cars is nearly cause for alarm or moderate stomach upset. Defibrillator cast aside, desperate chest-thumping abandoned – we had all gone home, the collective body of driving enthusiasts considering the Japanese brand clinically dead.

A blip occurred on the EKG over 5 years ago when rumor began to spread of a pure sports car surfacing from the brand. As much as it pained sports drivers to glance their eyes on Toyota dealer lots – lest their eyes set hold of the world’s most homely and boring automotive lineup – memories of happier times could still be called to mind. Iconic cars such as the Sports 800, 2000GT, Corolla GT-S and Supra spring to mind – dating back to the late 1960′s. The Corolla GT-S, internally code-named the AE86, finds a special resting place in many enthusiasts’ hearts, as this car captured much the same appeal as the E30. It was a simple, honest performance car that combined all essential ingredients into an affordable package, while retaining everyday usability and practicality. It was, to some extent, a Japanese E30.

Opposite Lock: Why the E30s True Successor is a Toyota

Now, in January of 2012, we can add the Toyota FT-86 to the list of pure, uncompromising sports cars. The mandate of this car is in parallel with that of the original E30, and this Toyota’s mechanical similarities may surprise you. Since we’re all driving enthusiasts at heart, let’s use the E30 M3 as a reference point. The M3 weighed in at 2,865 lbs, the FT-86 weighs an impressive 2,700 lbs (final figures are not out yet, but some expect it to weigh as little as 2,600 lbs!). The M3 was powered by a naturally aspirated 2.3 liter inline-4 cylinder that produced 192 hp at 6,750 rpm and 176 lb-ft of torque at 4,750 rpm, en route to a 7,300 rpm rev limit. The FT-86 is powered by a naturally aspirated 2.0 liter boxer-4 cylinder that produces 200 hp at 7,000 rpm, 151 lb-ft of torque at 6,600 rpm, eventually bouncing off the limiter at 7,400 rpm. The M3 was rear-wheel drive with a limited-slip differential standard, the FT-86 follows in kind. The M3 transfered power through a 5-speed manual transmission, the FT-86 offers a 6-speed manual. The M3, along with all other E30s, offered surprising practicality with a sizable trunk and 2+2 seating configuration. The FT-86 features a 2+2 layout with a sizable trunk and fold-down rear seats expanding total storage volume.

Opposite Lock: Why the E30s True Successor is a Toyota

What of the alleged successors within the BMW brand? Some – not least the marketing department – will point to the 1 series as heir to the E30 thrown and go on to insist that the 1 series M Coupe is the true successor to the E30 M3. I’ve spent a healthy amount of time behind the wheel of the understeering 1 series, and it lacks two of the core ingredients necessary to make it a worthy successor. The base 128i weighs 3,208 lbs, putting it a stout 200 lbs over the pivotal 3,000 lb tipping point that tends to exemplify a light weight sports car, and all other cars mentioned fall below this weight. The 1 series fails to include another ingredient: a limited-slip differential. What of the 1 series M Coupe? The car goes further astray as mechanical muscle adds considerable weight, the 1M registering 3,296 lbs on the scales. 431 lbs is a monumental amount of weight to be added to a sports car, and it permanently and irreversibly alters both the driving experience and the spirit of the car. I’ve driven the 1M in haste and while it delivers in all other departments, there is a spiritual element missing. In sports car rhetoric, that spiritual element is called, “lightness.” Further, it’s not a sports car for everyone, as hardly anyone can purchase it.

If you long for the visceral appeal of a BMW E30, the best solution may be to go out and buy a classic E30. If you’re bent on the sublime M version, then you’ll have to gather up a few more dollars, because current appreciation of the car has a low-milage specimen sitting at approximately $25,000 to $30,000 USD. Coincidentally, the Toyota FT-86 is expected to launch with a base price just over $25,000 USD.

While I’m smitten by the E30 and stand in awe of its driving appeal, I’ve already been down the vintage car path. I’ve owned an E30 and loved every minute of it, but for an assortment of reasons, I’m ready to drive cars built in step with modern hair styles. Even the most hard-core among us might rationally insist on owning a car built within the last decade.

Opposite Lock: Why the E30s True Successor is a Toyota

If you fall into the category of reformed vintage sports car driver, or earnest enthusiast looking for a modern E30, your options are limited – but no longer absent. As far as I see it, there is only one car that closely matches the performance of the E30 M3 while capturing the spirit of the car. BMW have reportedly played with the idea of a Z2 sports car, but as of yet, this car is set on the far off horizon – and there is tragic rumor that it may launch with front-wheel drive. It’s clear that in the year 2012, there is only one true successor to the BMW E30: the Toyota FT-86.

I’ve yet to drive the Toyota, but I’m eagerly awaiting track-time at the helm. The only complaint I’ve read thus far from recent reviews would be that the tire size is a touch to small, leaving the car needlessly searching for traction. Stock tire sizing is 215/45/17 square, so I imagine going to a 225 sticky compound all-round would solve this issue, and allow for serious track pace. If this car delivers half the fun of an E30 on track, I’ll be smitten – along with thousands of other track-addicts.

Opposite Lock: Why the E30s True Successor is a Toyota

If you’ve never heard of the Toyota FT-86, it could be because it carries so many different name plates. In actuallity the car was conceptualized by Toyota, but executed by Subaru – hence the ripping boxer-4. Subaru’s version is called the BR-Z while the Asian market retains the FT-86 moniker, and North America gets the flabby Scion FR-S badging. I cringe at the thought of owning a Scion – imagine: a brand below Toyota. But you mustn’t judge a car by its badge – not when the ingredients are so pure underneath. Hail the new E30.

Opposite Lock: Why the E30s True Successor is a Toyota

What car do you believe is the true successor to the E30? Tell us in the comment section below! (As a reference, remember that weight must be well below 3,000 lbs!)

[poll id="99"]

[Photo Credit: bmwroad.com | bmwtuner.net | usautoparts.net | pbase.com]

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  • Anonymous

    nice post!!! i’d have loved to drive one E30

  • JohnC

    1 series is a successor to E30. BTW you don’t want to get into an accident with E30…just saying

    • AnDerg

      the 1 series weighs 340 lb more than E30.  No comparison.  The FT86 will be lighter than the E30 M3 – mind blowing accomplishment.  

      • ChevChelios

        “mind blowing accomplishment”??  Hardly.  If you are so impressed with weight check out an eighties or early nineties Civic, you will find them mind-blowingly light.  The Toyota nearly matches the motor specs and misses on space packaging of a nearly thirty year old design.  What an amazing feat!  What makes the M3 so amazing is not simply weight and horsepower obviously, but the sublime driving experience it delivers in so many driving situations.  No one has even had a drive yet in the Toyota and the author of the this article finds it reasonable to name the untested, unproven, unraced Toyota a successor to the M3?  Ridiculous!  Once the Toyota racks up 1,000 race wins I will take a look (one fifth of the wins the E30 M3 has BTW).

        • Standardsetostun

           No one cares how light a civic is. It’s a front wheel drive POS.

        • Standardsetostun

           No one cares how light a civic is. It’s a front wheel drive POS.

    • LaMa

      you don’t want to get into an accident with E30…

      may I ask why ?  sure there isn’t 20 airbag but the structure is good and solid. Not more people died or got hurt back in the 80s then now. not even in percentage !  The E30 was able to avoid the accident which may not be possible in a heavy car.

      I have seen many damaged E30′s and they protected the occupants just as good as any new car does. 

      • Dr-Dre

        Sorry but that is absurd. According to every piece of data out there, deaths and injuries from car crashes in the US has dropped to an all time low and that is despite the significantly higher number of cars on the road.
        The E30 is a good solid car but it was not built to current crash standards. The reason modern cars are so heavy is not purely due to electronic doo-dads, it is due to multiple additional safety reinforcements and additional safety equipment such as airbags.
        You crash an E30 into a modern day Honda Civic and you’re more likely to survive in the Civic.

        • Howsoonisnow1985

          True, stick to the modern day Honda Accord Doctor. I will hammer my E30 M3 at any Laguna Seca track day or at a local autocross. Maybe get a Volvo if safety is the priority, rather than a fun “drivers” car.

        • Howsoonisnow1985

          True, stick to the modern day Honda Accord Doctor. I will hammer my E30 M3 at any Laguna Seca track day or at a local autocross. Maybe get a Volvo if safety is the priority, rather than a fun “drivers” car.

          • Makkara090

            Volvos are fun.. Just get the right version :) The “White” engine in the x70 and newer cars can easily get a cpl 100hp with the right threatment and oversized turbo ;)

  • Cereb

    off topic, sorry: Where is bimmertoday.de? Why am I getting to bmwblog.com?

    • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

      Working on it.

  • Anonymous

    Compared to other cars of its time the E30 M3 was a better car then the FT-86 is and I think the closest successor is the 1M Coupé, but nevertheless I’ll keep eyes on FT-86 as a fun car.
    BTW: can’t imagine a better text for toyota to make a commercial with ;-)

    • Simmadana

      I agree. I work for Scion Canada and was flattered to read this. The FR-S is a great car and being even considered for comparison next to the E30 is compliment enough ;)

    • Simmadana

      I agree. I work for Scion Canada and was flattered to read this. The FR-S is a great car and being even considered for comparison next to the E30 is compliment enough ;)

  • StraightSix

    Awesome!

  • Dan Wagener

    Comparing a Toyota to a BMW lol.

    • Ccook

      Laugh it up, but Toyota will have the last laugh on this one.  BMW lost sight of their core principles, and Toyota has built the car BMW built back in the 80s.  They will profit for it and repair their bad image. 

      • Mohammed Ali

        As much as I HATE Toyotas, I agree with you.
        Toyotas in general are some of the ugliest most boring cars, but their sport cars are something (supra, old school celicas)

      • BorisSaid

        @Ccook, ”
        Toyota has built the car BMW built back in the 80s”.  Sounds like you have extensive track time in the new Toyota!  Sweet, tell us about your experiences!  And, please compare them to your experiences driving the E30 M3 on the track.  To make a claim like the one you made MUST mean you have expertise and extensive experience with these two cars.  On the other hand, if you don’t have
        expertise and extensive experience with these two cars, please shut the hell up.

      • RavensFan

        Technically Subaru built it. It may say Scion (or Toyota in Japan) on the body but it’s a Subaru boxer Four that’s giving you the thrill that this car will have! If this engine is half as fun as the one in my STI, and with a lot less weight and RWD, I may have to think about a trade in…
        I really, really hope they bring a turbo version out at some point.

  • xpto

    The true successor is the BMW 1M coupe.
    Not a Toyota!!!!
    Shame on you!

    • Ccook

      It’s only embarrassing because Toyota built the car.  The 1M is over 400 lbs too heavy like the editor said.  Thats insane to add 400 lbs to a sports car and then compare them as the same.  How would you like it if your girlfriend added on 400 lbs?  Not quite the same “driving experience” no?

      • LaMa

        if a girlfriend started out as a 2800lbs gorilla then whats the extra 400lb fat ?

        besides if you bring up the comparo to a girlfriend, lets work with a  numbers.
        If a car/woman weight relates to each other then calculate them as such.
        2800/110 – 3220/126.50   or 15% increase. So if your girlfriend packs an another 16.5lbs then she is totally in a different league ? You must be a 20 something manager who east cereal 3 times a day.

        400lbs isn’t that much on a car that’s roughly 3000lbs.  Sure its not NOTHING, but believe me, if you compare the E30 M3 with the 1M, the difference in technology will overshadow that little fat that the 1M packing.

        better cornering, better acceleration, better handling, better stability, more comfort, more space, easier control, etc. Literally there is  nothing the E30 did better.
        Not to mention the 1M price cut compare to the E30 M3.  The 1M is about 25% cheaper !!!  again compare 87 price inflated to 2011 price not dollar to dollar.

        One thing the E30 M3 right now manages better but only temporary – long term value.

        The E30 M3 is cult car and their price/value is increasing.  The 1M at the moment might drop a few grand as they get used, but will increase their value over time.

        • Ccook

          I was mostly making a joke, but since you went down that path, let me use your math to firmly prove my point.  

          Okay, so your gf weighs 16lb more just sitting there on the sofa.  Not a big deal – though very noticeable.  She’s had to buy all new clothes whatever.. But here’s the point:

          Do you play sports?  Maybe tennis?  Or basketball?  Go play a good game, and then the next time you go out, throw on a backpack with 15% of your body weight added inside.  I’m 200 lb so lets say add 30 lbs.  Now go play your tennis game and see how that goes for you.  Also, see how much fun youre having.  Checkmate.  It’s not so different with cars in this analogy, they are faster, more agile, and more fun and free when they’re lighter.  

          Btw, not everyone’s wife or gf weighs 110 lbs.  What if your wife is 160 to start with – still a healthy weight for her height.  Now she gained 24 lbs and weighs 184… get the point… ?

          You say “400 lbs isn’t that much” on a car.  You CLEARLY have never, ever driven at speed on a track, or driven anything well.  400 lbs is MASSIVE.  Go tell that to a race team – we’re talking about sports cars.  You have no idea what you’re talking about.  Most good drivers can feel the difference of 50 lb in their car on track – or for example the difference in performance between an empty and a full tank of gas.  You can even feel that on the street.  You totally misunderstood this article.  It’s not even about outright speed its about a type of driving feel from light cars.  

          • Anonymous

            Let’s say you’re both  right. 400lbs is much, but still the 1M is a great car (even though I love E30) and with the newer ingredients it does everything better than E30 M3. That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t appreciate a lighter Version of the 1M.
            I guess if you move directly between E30 M3, 1M and FT-86 the Toyota feels more like E30 than the 1M, but at 2012 you can’t just build the same car again to get the same emotions.
            <- my opinion

        • 323ti-compact

          The 1M is a fat chick. Sad, but true. The weight simply will affect handling and consequently driving pleasure.
           However, there is something even worse: The 1M is pretty fast on the very smooth tarmac of a race track. But the performance on real roads with bumpy tarmac or even on wet roads is very poor, as the suspension is much too hard. the car simply lacks mechanical traction.Going to work on wet roads? Better don’t touch the DSC button! The rear end will make you sweat, as it goes off very early and very quickly.In contrast this was great fun in an M3 E30, as the car goes smoothly in a drift.The M3 E30 was a car for all day use. The 1M isn’t! 

          In addition: If you try to buy an 1M, you may quickly find out, that you can’t, because despite of the denial by BMW this car is build merely in a strictly limitied small number.

          • Makkara090

            Americans wants their suspension soft. Most US versions of Euro cars has softer springs and dampers.. Compareing a car made for the 2010s to a car that saw it’s first light in 1983 is silly. The market for such cars are gone. . And just to look at wheight alone is silly.. The e30 was light but had a tad over 200 hp.. Modern cars are heavier but they have more HP.. I own two old bimmers. A 34 and a e30. I like my suspension hard and handling crisp.. Can’t say i have anything against the new cars.. Noone is brave enough to toss me the keys to a proper M car but the bmws i’ve driven feels like a BMW and behaves like a BMW is supposed to.. A company has to evolve with the times, demand and the law. Or else you end up with Chrysler, Frod and GM.. Flogging the same old BS until the over seas cars make them do quick fixes like K kars and rebadgeing POS Daewoos.

        • Azlehria

          What I take away from LaMa’s posts: he(?) has never taken a car to it’s limits.

          I’ve been upside down in a sports car, sideways in a minivan, over 110 MPH in a 3-spd sedan, and many places in between.  The difference between having a passenger or not, or whether the fuel tank is full, is tremendous and much, much less than the 400+ pounds in question.

    • BMW Fan

      that’s a fact.

  • empower

     lets see how many championships this Toyota wins round the world. what aload of crap he has not even driven the car yet and he calls it the successor  to the e30. i wonder how this car will rate in crash test and how cheap the interior will be 

  • Anonymous

    I was more than smitten by the concept, but the production versions are a bit ho-hum. The wheels in the pic are really weak and do nothing for the car. I will wait until I see it in the metal to make up my mind.

  • Anonymous

    My E30 325e was the best BMW I’ve owned!  Neither the sportiest nor the most fun BMW, just the best.  I was able to do some things that simply can’t be done in other cars…not even other BMWs.  A BMW designer once told me that his favorite BMW is the E30 Cabrio.

    The reason is the same as to why this particular article is kinda lame.  One adheres to (then prevailing) company values, the other doesn’t.

    BMW & Toyota have different agenda.  The former is a premium Brand, the latter isn’t…Yes, Brand matters!  The passage of 25+ years makes any comparison meaningless.  Hence the arbitrary 3,000 lbs limit.

    Further, those with actual experience will know that the respective characters among the E30 M3, 6 cyl E30′s & 4 cyl E30′s are vastly different.  I once took a 2-day driving school at Road America because they used E30 M3′s.  Lots of fun on the track, to be sure.  It’s another story in real-life driving.  Thank Goodness(!) that BMW came out with the 325e when they did because, if the only choice would’ve been the slower-than-you-know-what 318i, I would’ve bought an Alfa Romeo GTV6.

    There’s another car from the same time period that doesn’t have a modern day successor…just like the E30.

    • Shawn

      bimmerphile
      et al,

      Thank you
      for your comments! This kind of debate is exactly what Opposite Lock is written
      to create.

      Take this
      Opposite Lock, and all Opposite Locks, with a grain of salt. I intend to dive
      into controversial waters in order to stir up lively debate and free thinking
      on these topics.

      Obviously,
      we have not driven this car yet so any direct comparisons cannot be made in
      terms of handling and dynamics – we can only go with what we have on paper.
      What we have on paper is nearly a carbon copy of the E30 M3′s specifications
      and performance. I challenge you to find a closer successor in the year 2012 in
      terms of specifications, performance and mission. Let me know what you find. I know
      this: BMW doesn’t build it. I lament this fact and wish they would. As
      highlighted in my article, they may build it when they put the rumored Z2 into
      production, but that’s a long way off and we’re not even sure if it will be rwd
      or fwd. (shudder)

      While I’ve
      yet to drive the car, a good friend of mine just drove it on track in Japan,
      and he described the type of mechanical harmony and simple, honest driving
      experience typical of lightweight sports cars. The math doesn’t lie, and a
      2,700 lb sports car will be closer in spirit and character to the E30 M3 (and
      other E30s for that matter) than any 3,000 + lb sports car. If you haven’t
      spent quality time behind the wheel of lightweight, pure sports cars on track,
      you couldn’t possibly understand the comparison of these two cars. The single
      most important factor in a sports car’s performance is its weight, as this
      effects braking, acceleration, cornering, agility, and to a lesser degree, even
      top speed. And to get all philosophical – a car’s weight is closely tied to its
      soul, the way it feels to drive. Cheesy this may sound – but true.

      This article
      was not written to compare badges or company values – it was written in a
      completely objective way, focusing on numbers. Is there a more legitimate way
      to compare cars? The subjective driving impressions will come later after we’ve
      driven the car on track. Look out for future video reviews.. they’re coming.

      Will the
      FT-86 be as special as an E30? Will it have the same romance? Not in my heart,
      as I’ve owned, raced, and loved E30s. But the numbers can’t be ignored, and I
      do believe that the FT86 will be a special car. The 86 design team was given a
      clean slate and a clear mission: to build a pure, simple sports car with the
      ingredients mentioned in my article. Their intention was to capture the magic
      of the original AE86, a car not unlike the E30 in spirit. While I’m the first
      to voice how dead-boring Toyota’s current lineup is, I also recognize they’ve
      built a few iconic sports cars of the past, like the Supra for example. The 86
      even manages a few bests, for example its center of gravity is incredibly low,
      lower than that of the Porsche Cayman, lower than any BMW production car, only
      bested by a few hyper-exotics which have the advantage of a much lower ride
      height. That’s pretty special, in my books. That’s engineering at its best, and
      it’s meaningful from behind the wheel. I believe that’s what this car will be
      all about. Will it be stonking fast – absolutely not. It will be roughly as
      quick as an E30 M3?  The numbers suggest
      so.   

      Someone
      brought up build quality: I love German craftsmanship and Toyotas have neither
      shoddy nor exceptional interiors, but the production model FT86 should have a
      simple, decent interior that allows you to get on with the job at hand. Again,
      direct comparisons are a little unfair considering a 30 year gap in materials
      use and fabrication, but by and large the 86 has good interior build quality on
      the show car. I haven’t driven it but I have spent some time sitting in it.
      Also, it accommodates a 6’2 driver adequately, with helmet on – although I’ll
      slightly have to recline my seat as I do in most cars to allow enough head
      clearance with helmet on.

      I hope this
      rebuttal proves helpful in better explaining the purpose of this article and,
      indeed, Opposite Lock. Thanks for your valued comments.

      • Shawn

        sry for strange spacing – pasted in..

      • RavensFanStan

        Well said. I think some of the Bimmerphiles here are taking this a little too personally. When comparing the “brand name”, I can understand why. However, as was explained, on paper these cars are very similar and in the end, that’s what’s being compared here more than anything.

        I expect this Toyubaru to basically be a Miata with a hardtop. It could use a bit more power in my book (future STI/TRD version?)but that’s just me (although they keep saying that with the super low mounting of the engine, turbocharging isn’t possible). I’ve owned a 2004 Mazdaspeed MX-5 (turbocharged Miata) and to me, that was the best driving experience I’ve ever had. I’ve never had more fun driving a car and I miss it greatly (sold it and bought my 2011 WRX STI in the name of being a more practical family man). I love my Subaru and to be quite frank, it’s pretty damn fast, especially in it’s current form with engine and suspesnion mods. That being said, I still miss that MX-5 all the time. It’s not just a power-to-weight issue, it’s a WEIGHT issue. My STI would kill the MX-5 in a straight line with it’s 360+ whp and 380+ lb/ft but I can promise you this, in the MX-5, you’ll be losing with a big smile on your face.

        In the twisties, however, there is no comparison (unless it’s raining or snowing). That MX-5 was just pure fun, thrilling and most importantly, LIGHT! The STI has plenty of power to overcome it’s heavier weight but you can most definitely feel it with every turn of the wheel. You can try to counter it, as I did, with springs and sway bars, etc., however, a pound is a pound is a pound. There’s no getting around that.

        Anyway, I think objectivity is the key here. Regardless, this is one person’s opinion so don’t take it too personally. I don’t think the intent here was to take away from the E30 by comparing it to a Toyota, rather take the badges off of both cars and look at what you’re left with. That’s what this is about…

    • Shawn

      bimmerphile et al,

      Thank you for your comments! This kind of debate is exactly what Opposite Lock is written
      to create.  Take this Opposite Lock, and all Opposite Locks, with a grain of salt. I intend to diveinto controversial waters in order to stir up lively debate and free thinking on these topics. Obviously, we have not driven this car yet so any direct comparisons cannot be made in terms of handling and dynamics – we can only go with what we have on paper.  What we have on paper is nearly a carbon copy of the E30 M3′s specifications and performance. I challenge you to find a closer successor in the year 2012 in terms of specifications, performance and mission. Let me know what you find. I know this: BMW doesn’t build it. I lament this fact and wish they would. Ashighlighted in my article, they may build it when they put the rumored Z2 into production, but that’s a long way off and we’re not even sure if it will be rwd or fwd. (shudder) While I’ve yet to drive the car, a good friend of mine just drove it on track in Japan, and he described the type of mechanical harmony and simple, honest driving experience typical of  lightweight sports cars. The math doesn’t lie, and a 2,700 lb sports car will be closer in spirit and character to the E30 M3 (and other E30s for that matter) than any 3,000 + lb sports car. If you haven’t spent quality time behind the wheel of lightweight, pure sports cars on track, you couldn’t possibly understand the comparison of these two cars. The single most important factor in a sports car’s performance is its weight, as this effects braking, acceleration, cornering, agility, and to a lesser degree, even top speed. And to get all philosophical – a car’s weight is closely tied to itssoul, the way it feels to drive. Cheesy this may sound – but true. This article was not written to compare badges or company values – it was written in a completely objective way, focusing on numbers. Is there a more legitimate way to compare cars? The subjective driving impressions will come later after we’ve driven the car on track. Look out for future video reviews.. they’re coming. Will the FT-86 be as special as an E30? Will it have the same romance? Not in my heart, as I’ve owned, raced, and loved E30s. But the numbers can’t be ignored, and I do believe that the FT86 will be a special car. The 86 design team was given a clean slate and a clear mission: to build a pure, simple sports car with the ingredients mentioned in my article. Their intention was to capture the magic of the original AE86, a car not unlike the E30 in spirit. While I’m the first to voice how dead-boring Toyota’s current lineup is, I also recognize they’ve built a few iconic sports cars of the past, like the Supra for example. The 86 even manages a few bests, for example its center of gravity is incredibly low, lower than that of the Porsche Cayman, lower than any BMW production car, only bested by a few hyper-exotics which have the advantage of a much lower ride height. That’s pretty special, in my books. That’s engineering at its best, and it’s meaningful from behind the wheel. I believe that’s what this car will be all about. Will it be stonking fast – absolutely not. It will be roughly as quick as an E30 M3?  The numbers suggest so.   Someone brought up build quality: I love German craftsmanship and Toyotas have neither shoddy nor exceptional interiors, but the production model FT86 should have a simple, decent interior that allows you to get on with the job at hand. Again, direct comparisons are a little unfair considering a 30 year gap in materials use and fabrication, but by and large the 86 has good interior build quality on the show car. I haven’t driven it but I have spent some time sitting in it. Also, it accommodates a 6’2 driver adequately, with helmet on – although I’ll slightly have to recline my seat as I do in most cars to allow enough head clearance with helmet on. I hope this rebuttal proves helpful in better explaining the purpose of this article and, indeed, Opposite Lock. Thanks for your valued comments. 

  • storm

    What about the e46 CSL?

    • AnDerg

      E46 CSL isn’t a current car.  You cant go to the dealership and buy one.

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  • http://twitter.com/JH4VERL4ND John Haverland

    How can you mention the driver-enthusiast Toyotas of yesteryear and overlook the MR2? It’s a far superior driving experience to the Corolla GT-S…that is if you could handle it…

  • BastosBill

    My E30 M3 weighs 2700 lbs and is awesome to drive. As nice as the 1M is…..it is still too heavy, and nearly unobtainium. Based on the actual criteria above, the Toyota/Subie/Scion nearly matches the M3 in stats perfectly. Certainly a little light on Torque, but I would be interested in driving one to compare. All of you touting the 1M have to realize the the term successor does not mean a bigger/higher HP version/heavier car. The Toyota matches the original weight/HP/ Normal aspiration/manual transmission etc. What is left to compare is suspension and handling. Interesting article.

  • Brain

    This a perfect history, i think why the M3 e90 is the fatest? … and the worst … the u.s.market

  • 323ti-compact

    I loved to ride my E30 320i. 
    And I likewise love my E36 323ti compact with LSD (together with the Z3 Coupé the only successor within the BMW portfolio, that reaches the level of the epic E30). I kept the 323ti compact for years now, because there was simply no option available in the market!And I am pretty sure: I will buy and love the GT 86 just as much as my old E30.

  • lawprofkj

    Love my E30 (’91 318i).  Handling is unsurpassed.  BMW got this one right.

  • Tstorrs

    I have an original E30-325is, almost got the M but the 4 banger vibration wasn’t so nice compared to the silky 6,,,oh well. I still get in it and think better than almost all new cars…and lots more fun. As for a comp…can’t really think of one…Cooper S ?

  • Nimal

    On paper the figures look good for the Toyota… but that driver feel? After 30 years would drivers still want the Toyota FT-86 experience the same way that E30 drivers keep yearning for more?

  • Anonymous

    Even though I have never driven an E30, I would say that calling the BRZ/FR-S it’s true successor might be a bit hasty.  ..Such is the legend of the E30.

    But the numbers are there.  More power, less weight, an LSD in the rear behind 6 gears and 3 pedals. Also, what wasn’t mentioned was that the Toybaru is 4 inches shorter with a designed-in low polar moment.  4 inches wider which makes for better weight transfer and stability.  Also it’s 4 inches shorter vertically with a CG height that’s as low as, if not lower than, a Ferrari 458.

    Will it have the same feel as an E30?  Who knows?   But the numbers say that even if it doesn’t, it should be one really well handling car.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Q5HUGLMCZNGQ7DW25W6EPO5VKY TylerH

    The e30 M3 is a sports car with gobs of luxury…

    From full leather, to the premium sound to the construction/fit and finish of a late 80′s early 90′s BMW. Everything in the E30 M3 was top of the line at the time. The engine was derived from racing heritage, the exterior was as well.

    In no way does a 25k “bargin bin” introductory sports car from Toyota/scion “carry on the e30 M’s spirit” This car is bare minimum for todays standards, and being bare minimum is the ONLY thing keeping this car at the somewhat low curb weight everyone is praising. An E30 M3 wasn’t the fastest car at the time by any means, but it was leaps and bounds from being “the slowest” . Even the 20 year old M3 produced more power than this car.. This car is a “bare minimum” sports car, while the e30 M3 was what cars like the FRS desired to be…This car is about 50% gimmick 50% actual performance right now. I can’t wait till this car gets properly reviewed without paychecks being threatened to get some realistic “this car is in need of some more power, and why would anyone sell a sports car on Prius tires” reviews.

  • Lord Desslok

    Thanks for writing this article.  My only beefs with it are:

    [1] The title is misleading since the FT-86 is just as much a Subaru as a Toyota (a minor quibble since Subaru is mentioned in the article).

    [2] The FT-86 is not uncompromising.  The Elise, Atom, and Caterham are uncompromising.  To be fair the Atom and Cateram aren’t really street cars and I agree with the intent of your “uncompromising” comment: the FT-86 emphasizes traditional sports car dynamics more than any other current 4 seater (or any other cheap car, apart from the MX5).

    I agree wholeheartedly that the FT-86 has the potential to be the true successor to the E30, and at half the adjusted-for-inflation-price!  I look forward to test driving it.

  • Lord Desslok

    Thanks for writing this article.  My only beefs with it are:

    [1] The title is misleading since the FT-86 is just as much a Subaru as a Toyota (a minor quibble since Subaru is mentioned in the article).

    [2] The FT-86 is not uncompromising.  The Elise, Atom, and Caterham are uncompromising.  To be fair the Atom and Cateram aren’t really street cars and I agree with the intent of your “uncompromising” comment: the FT-86 emphasizes traditional sports car dynamics more than any other current 4 seater (or any other cheap car, apart from the MX5).

    I agree wholeheartedly that the FT-86 has the potential to be the true successor to the E30, and at half the adjusted-for-inflation-price!  I look forward to test driving it.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/alex.king.3304 Alex King

    who ever said that the e30 M3 had top of the line everything needs to actually look at the car themselves instead of assuming things because it is the top of the line. the M3 didn’t even come with a radio. It and the e28 M5 are probably the closest thing you will get to a race car for the money. they were built on the premise that an enthusiast wouldn’t want the nice things wrecking their driving experience. toyota has done something that some people have been waiting for, create a car that is simple, not interfeering with the driving experience.

    • BastosBill

      The E30M3 didn’t come with a radio? Really? How come they all have radio antenna’s on the top? What the heck are all those speakers for? What is that thing on my dash with the knobs on it? Why do I keep hearing music when I’m driving my car??
      Granted, the DTM M3′s didn’t come with a radio, nor did the Works race cars. But hey, they didn’t even really have an interior LOL!

  • ke70gt

    awesome read I own an ae86 and an e30 have to say they feel the same to drive just the e30 has more rear end grip thanks to irs and has much more steering lock so it’s good
    at getting out of slides but you’ll learn more about driving in an ae86
    m1 isnt a successor to an e30 cause its to heavy and an gt-86 isnt either cause its not a bmw and its not a sports sedan like an e30
    bmw need to get there shit together and start building small cars like the 2002 and e30

  • Makkara090

    The standards needs to be improved as the customers expectations improves.. Sure the newer cars are heavier but they also have more power.. E30M30 was light but it wasn’t any humungus HP compared to the other e30is. . To be able to sell a BMW you need to have it up at BMW standards.. A e30 made today will not sell. They do make a light version and it’s the CSL, go buy that. Also the laws and safety expectations makes building a light car even more of a challange.. The M cars does what they are supposed to.. Realiable, crazy fun and do what they’re supposed to.. Do not compare a Toyota to a BMW M car. it’s like comparing Beer to Bud LIte.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jheising Joshua Heising

    The E30 has no true successor, that’s the reason it has such a cult following, and the reason they are only increasing in value as they age and deteriorate. It’s also the reason I’m restoring a convertible from the ground up. When I have the money to spend $30k+ on a car I’ll be building an E30 M3. No other car gets me like the E30 does. The E28 comes close… but that came before the E30, so doesn’t count.

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    the most stylish and powerful car of the world.i think every one wants to own a BMW for sure.it has become a craze for the car crazies.

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