Less With The Mouth, More With The Trousers.

Whether it’s a BMW, Audi or Mercedes, the Sport trim level is the one to have. It’s the one with the “look at me” wheels, it’s the one with the visual impact, it’s the one with all the parking lot poseur value. And I wish it would stop.
An S-Line Audi A4 diesel gives you the rock-hard ride and tramlining habits of the S4, along with most of the looks, but lacks the vast majority of the power required to make any of it worthwhile. Driving one of these is a little like attempting an armed robbery with a replica hand gun; your intention is obvious but it remains to be seen whether you have the firepower to match your gung-ho attitude.
Does anybody here remember when “Sport” meant something? I mean, really meant something?

I have fond memories of travelling along the motorway as a kid, a passenger in my Father’s Sierra. Every now and again he would grab my attention and say “Chris, look what’s coming up behind us”, and there’d be a rapidly approaching Sierra Cosworth. The Uber-Sierra stood head and shoulders beyond the rest of the range, wearing its deep chin spoiler, its gaping, hungry, grille and its bonnet vents as prominently as gangland tattoos.
Ford didn’t sell a regular Sierra that looked anything like the Cosworth.  Although determined blaggards could and did home-brew their own “replicas” this came quite a long time after the Cossie’s reign as king of the blue oval hill.
Compare the scene fifteen years later when the Fast Ford for the midsize sector was the Mondeo ST220. It, too, looked obviously more purposeful than the rest of the Mondeo lineup. But all too soon it was joined by, horror of horrors, the ST TDCi. 100% of the looks of that V6 hot-shot, but with a farm-tractor soundtrack and usual fate of ferrying photocopier toner sales representatives from one miserable office to the next. From then on, every time you hoped you’d seen an ST220, it turned out to be a bloody diesel charlatan.
I’d like to see a return to the old days. Get rid of the Sport trim apart from on genuinely sporty applications. Make the SE great again, selling on ride quality and competence rather than being seen as the poor relation to the artificially enhanced sports wannabe. The image at the top of this screed shows an M-Sport bodykit, for sale on eBay, ready to be plastered as onto a 5-Series that’s far more at home on the M25 than the Nurburgring.
This would increase the gap between the M5 and the lesser 5-Series and give people something to aspire to again, rather than letting folk believe they’ve already arrived. These top line machines just seem so much more heroic when they really do stand out from the crowd.
(Lede image from eBay.com, 2nd Image from driversgeneration.com. All opinions entirely those of the Author)

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  1. HyenaGo Avatar

    I think some modern cars like a current M3 or Corvette Z06 are very fast cars and most of the aero is functional so that’s OK. If it’s a Toyota Carolla that’s hard pressed to crack 100 and comes from the factory with side skirts and other plastic garbage hanging off it there should be an ugly tax.

    1. dukeisduke Avatar

      Toyota made an attempt in 2005 with the Corolla XRS (1.8l VVTi-L four with 8200rpm redline, six-speed manual, four-wheel discs with ABS), but didn’t bother marketing it, so it disappeared after just two model years. They tried again in 2009 with another XRS in the newer generation, but it wasn’t the same.

  2. Preludacris Avatar

    At least BMW still sets apart the “real” M cars with wider fenders. Doesn’t matter how many M badges, snazzy bumpers, and side skirts there are. Enthusiasts will know it’s still not an M car unless it’s got those bulging, muscular fender arches. As for the lesser “sport” models? They’re still plenty fast by any reasonable standard. Fast enough to blow the doors off my little sporty car.

  3. Maymar Avatar

    I’m not sure if it’s more infuriating that the Germans have fallen into an Ouroboros of being desirable to the masses for qualities those masses don’t appreciate or want, and just building the sheen of those qualities (which just makes them ever more popular with the masses), or that there’s been a relative lack of anyone different to fill in. I hope we’ll always have the GTI, which is probably the closest thing to the (possibly mythical) BMW 2002 that David E. Davis Jr. raved about (in part because it wasn’t something that’d be used to fill out a baggy jock strap).

  4. Sjalabais Avatar

    You’re not going to meet much resistance to that opinion here. In my corner of the car world, the same has happened, and I can’t understand why. Volvo made their famous “R”-models, first fast wagons that struggled to put their power on the road, later much more qualified fast cars with industry leading tech (think “Four C”). They’re the heritage cars of Volvo’s play with turbos, which basically made square, overengineered, reliable boxes fun and of enthusiast’s concern back in the day. “R” was meant to stand for “refinement”.
    So you’d think the whole carmaker administration will value that heritage in unison.
    But, no, some marketing idiots found out you can squeeze some extra bucks out of trim pieces and stitches, and they created “R design”. I’m not going to post a picture, but it is exactly the kind of mindless posturing, bone without meat, that attracts views in the parking lot. Posturing without essence – completely misses me how this fits with a brand trying to stand for essential values, good, clean design, and educated honesty. It’s the bloody opposite, a sellout that can only hurt the brand in the long run.
    …and people buy it like crazy. Just like they still send mails with “send from my iPhone”, a marketing trick I found so childish, I’d never thought it would survive a week.

  5. Wind Advisory Avatar
    Wind Advisory

    Counterpoint. Sometimes the top of the mark variant (M, S, RS, R )contains a infinity complex motor that turns out to be more of a headache than it is worth. While the base trim can be had with a power plant that has proven itself to be bullet proof with unlimited tuning potential. (On more than one occasion I have personally sought out an M-Tech or S-Line variant because I wanted to avoid the pitfalls of a high tolerance disposable engine.)
    There are countless tastefully executed tributes utilizing OEM bumpers and side skirts that would decimate the car it was built to be a replica of.