LTMW BMW M3 E36 or E92 – Which Grabs You (w/video)


2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 & GLA45 AMG Highlights

Fine blend of talents in the GLA250
Excellent steering feel
Power lift gate is standard
Charming styling
The AMG version is quick

Mercedes benz GLA class dashboard 02 Photo 2/10 | 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 & GLA45 AMG – First Drive Review

Mercedes-Benz vehicles exhibit many virtues. Build quality, intense attention to the tiniest details, engineering depth, and great design among them. In the 2015 GLA250 compact crossover, there’s an accumulation of subtle pleasures that makes it a perfect vehicle to own, from handling the grind of the commute to setting off on a road trip.

It’s not a car that tries to overstate its case and is all the more agreeable because of it. There are times when we might not want to be super-involved in driving, in which case we can enjoy the Mercedes-Benz GLA’s tranquil yet stylish cabin, the comfortable but supportive seats, and take for granted the easy ride quality, the engine’s more-than-adequate punch, and the brakes’ reassuring abilities.
Mercedes benz GLA class driver side front view 03 Photo 3/10 | 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 & GLA45 AMG – First Drive Review

For other occasions when devilish moods and interesting roads coincide, drivers can recalibrate their senses to tune in more to the GLA’s well-sorted chassis, put the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission into sport mode, and have a little tarmac-based adventure.

Believe or not, steering feel is excellent. This might just be the fortunate upshot of optional 19-inch wheels wearing 235/40 tires in the Edition 1 package, but the balance of weight and precision ties in with a satisfying directness. There’s no need for constant correction. Turn the wheel the desired amount and the GLA responds accordingly. Even rough road surfaces can’t deflect it from its course.
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Built on the same platform as the CLA compact sedan that offers front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, the GLA brings an elevated driving position so beloved by a large section of the motoring public along with rear passenger space that will accommodate an average-sized adult, plus cargo capacity that goes from 11.8 cubic feet with the rear seats up (they split and fold in 60/40 fashion) to 42 cubes with them folded down flat. For comparison’s sake, BMW’s X1 runs to 14.8/47.7 cubic feet. The GLA’s power lift gate is standard, by the way.

Factor in standard safety equipment like eight airbags, attention assist, and collision prevention assist with autonomous braking, and that all adds up to a lot of attributes delivered with typical Mercedes-Benz efficiency and style. From a relatively affordable starting price, the GLA250 is a well-rounded package.

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So it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that the high-performance variant, the ’15 Mercedes-Benz GLA45 AMG 4Matic, is just as good, only firmer and faster. Well, yes. And no.

Yes because of its engine. In the usual AMG way, this is hand-assembled by one technician who affixes a personalized plaque as a final task. Although it’s an aluminum, twin-scroll turbo, 2.0L four-potter like its regular counterpart, Mercedes-Benz says this is essentially one half of the new V-8 going into AMG’s second sports car, the ’16 GT and the upcoming C63.
Mercedes benz GLA class passenger side front view 05 Photo 8/10 | 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 & GLA45 AMG – First Drive Review

The company claims it’s the most powerful series-production turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the world. It makes 355 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque, propels the GLA45 from standstill to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, and runs through the quarter-mile in just 12.7 seconds at 108.3 mph.

Also yes because all-wheel drive is standard in the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA45 and can put that power to the pavement without any kind of slip. The electronic stability program (ESP) has been tweaked to enhance dynamics. Its torque vectoring function brakes single wheels to help rotate the car through quick corners, with an emphasis on handling before letting the safety aspect take over.
Mercedes benz GLA class shifter 06 Photo 9/10 | 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 & GLA45 AMG – First Drive Review

Ride height has been dropped by 1.8 inches compared with the regular model. The front seats are more bucket-like with plenty of lateral support, and the almost-obligatory flat-bottomed steering wheel has sections of Alcantara wrap at the quarter-to-three position for extra sportiness.

And maybe no because that delicate balance of complementary talents is now upset by the drumming of the tires on the road. It might seem odd, even heretical, to criticize something with more power and greater agility, but the GLA stops being a multitasker and becomes a fast car with a hatchback, stiff suspension, larger antiroll bars, and a noisier cabin. It’s like taking a Willie Nelson tune and giving it the AC/DC treatment. Sure, it rocks, but a degree of charm has been lost in the process. Even more so with the gruff-sounding performance exhaust option.

A sporty machine feels right when it has optimum aerodynamics and a low center of gravity, like the CLA45 AMG, which is undoubtedly the driver’s choice in that range. But in this case, the AMG formula is compromised. Mercedes has the wonderful A-Class in other markets but has determined the only way to be successful selling a hot-hatch to Americans is under the pretense of a crossover. It’s good, but not as great as it could be. If (or, more probably, when) BMW decides to make an M version of its X1 compact crossover, it would be fascinating to see how the two compare.

LTMW BMW M3 E36 or E92 – Which Grabs You (w/video)

It’s impossible to ignore the presence of Liberty Walk and Rocket Bunny. With their uncanny rebel spirit, Wataru Kato and Kei Miura effortlessly catapulted themselves as the hottest trendsetters all over the world. Becoming Internet sensations is one thing, but continually claiming magazine features is another. The formula may seem as simple as slapping on fender flares, but it takes a great amount of passion, creativity, and perfectionism you’ll only find in Japan. While you might think these two would primarily design body kits for the cars from their respected country, their inspiration extends into the Euro community, where we found Justin Gomba’s knockout duo of supercharged LTMW BMW M3 E36 and E92 builds.
1998 BMW M3 active autowerke stage 1 supercharger 04 Photo 2/24 | Custom wire tuck by Gearheinz.

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2013 BMW M3 ESS tuning supercharger 12 Photo 6/24 | 600 ponies courtesy of an ESS Tuning supercharger.

Justin is quite the character—a friendly, humble, and at times very amusing Filipino. The only time you’ll ever find him silent is when there are copious amounts of pork sisig stuffed in his mouth. A man with great taste to say the least, he chose a pair of project cars that are regarded as the ultimate driving machines.
2013 BMW M3 liberty walk body kit 07 Photo 7/24 | LTMW BMW M3 E36 or E92 – Which Grabs You (w/video)

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He started with the E36, which is also the first M3 that rocked an inline-six motor. In the pursuit of more power, Justin jumped into the force induction realm with a stage one Active Autowerke supercharger. Keeping things tidy, the bay received a complete wire tuck courtesy of Gearheinz. The exterior was given the Kei Miura treatment with the widebody kit he designed for Sarto Racing. Justin told us, “”The over fender game is being done by everyone, but I knew I could put my own little twist to it.”” So to make it more unique, Justin had Aeroflow Dynamics design a custom front lip and splitter combo. The perfect stance is achieved with an AirREX suspension kit that’s complemented with a set of staggered BBS RS wheels polished by Floss Design. Justin added, “My favorite part is the wheels. I have always been a sucker for the BBS RS, especially on this car. It gives it a very classic look, despite all the heavy modifications.” With the exterior on point, Justin turned to the cockpit of the car. The OEM seats and headliner were reupholstered while a yellow-stitched Personal steering wheel added a nice subtle touch.
LTMW BMW M3 9 Photo 11/24 | LTMW BMW M3 9

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Sitting next to Justin’s E36 is the E92, a car with a price tag Sam Du and I can’t afford with our meager salaries combined. To top it all off, it’s rockin’ an exquisite Liberty Walk widebody kit that is on another level from your Duraflex Spyder kit, if those still exist. Justin uses similar blueprints for the younger E92, painting the exterior the same Dakar yellow color. Instead of going air, he’s fully static on KW Clubsport coilovers. Like father like son, the E92 is rolling on BBS as well, but instead of the classic RS design, Justin opted for LM-Rs. The interior gets a touch of elegance and class with diamond-stitched Recaro Sportsters while everything else was wrapped in matching alcantara suede. Under the hood is where things get a bit interesting as the S65 V-8 is blown via an ESS Tuning supercharger to produce a healthy 625 hp. An iPE exhaust gives Justin the ability to make his E92 purr. Of course, with any sort of power upgrades, it’s imperative to address stopping capabilities. Justin favored StopTech’s Trophy big brake kit. He concluded, “I have always loved Euro cars. Don’t get me wrong—I’m always amazed and respect JDM builds. I just never really had the guts to build a JDM car because the standards are so high when building these cars. So I did the best thing anybody could do. Build a Euro car with some JDM flavor in it!”