There’s nothing like taking that end-of-summer road trip. Hitting the highways in search of the last grasp of Summer and the last fun before the reality of Fall and Winter hit.
It was with a little trepidation that the Wife and I set out for adventure, fun, good food, good friends and good relatives. Yes, we made the trek to the north. The little town known as “The D”, thanks to T-Baby and her hit single, “It’s so Cold In The D”. After you sit through the song, go here to see a response…
So out we set with not much of an itinerary and a lot of road before us. Our first stop was our favorite little winery in the sleepy Southwestern Michigan town of Coloma, Karma Vista. We were inside, tasting the new wines, when it hit me that we’ve been patronizing Karma Vista for the last 5 years. It was here that we spent a glorious afternoon on our honeymoon tour of Michigan wine country. What makes Karma Vista so special, besides the great wine, wonderful location and great owners in Joe and Sue Herman, is the titles of the wines themselves: Gunzan Rose, Pink Side of the Moon, Starry Starry White, Moondance Merlot, Watusi Red…are you seeing the pattern?? So yes, we bought a case but it’s not all for us: We gave two bottles to E & M for boarding us, two bottles are for C & J for watching the girls and two bottles are for A & S for a housewarming gift. Generous, no?
Another cultural schooling came Friday when we crossed the border into Canada to visit the wineries of Pelee Island and Mastronardi. Each had a great selection of great-tasting wines and beautiful surroundings. The interesting thing about the Ontario wineries was the extra step undertaken to ensure the wines are of the utmost quality and use only grapes grown in Southern Ontario. Here’s an excerpt from the Canada South Wine Tours explaining their system:
In 1989, Canada adopted a designation system known as the VQA system (Vintners Quality Alliance) which was initiated by the winemakers of Ontario in recognition of the importance of having standards against which Canadian wines could be measured against the wines of other countries. The system was modeled after the French system which is based on origin and identifies specific geographic areas that have been singled out as having characteristics favorable to the cultivation of grapes. Essex County was officially identified as having two of Ontario’s three Designated Viticultural Areas. The two areas were named Lake Erie North Shore (mainland) and Pelee Island (Island). The third area in Ontario is Niagara, there are also 4 DVA’s in British Columbia. Since then, a growing number of vintners have been reclaiming the soil and the region’s reputation by producing some of Canada’s best wines. Today there are approximately 1,000 acres of grapes in the Lake Erie North Shore and Pelee Island Designated Viticultural Areas.
So we didn’t exactly buy a case in Canada but that’s OK since we were worried about the duty tax we might pay for any extra bottles over the 9 we purchased. Thankfully, we sailed through the border!
Our next big even came Saturday night when we went to see Jack Scott and his band perform at the annual Hamtramck Polish Festival. The band performed admirably, playing some of Jack’s greatest hits including “Burning Bridges”, “Leroy/Greaseball” and “Geraldine”.
Yes, my friends, life is good…
And here’s today’s Retro Review!!
Ultimate Driving Machine Indeed
by James E. Bryson
There are times when you have to ask yourself what you did to deserve such wonderful treatment…driving any BMW will get such a response. Us auto reviewers get to drive a lot of nice cars and trucks but when we get something like a new BMW, it makes us giddy. Why, you ask? Because, when BMW calls its cars the “Ultimate Driving Machines”, they aren’t kidding. From the Mini up to the new 7-Series, BMW makes the most driver-oriented, fun-to-drive, best handling cars this side of the racetrack.
The only downside is paying out the wazoo for the privilege…but we digress.
The last 3-Series Bimmer we tested was the new-for-’99 328i sedan. It was a remarkable car with excellent road manners and good looks to boot. This time around, we got a chance to sample the all-wheel-drive machine called 330xi.
From its tight steering and quick responses to the way it coddles you in any of the seats to its striking lines and muscular haunches, the BMW 3-Series is more a piece of art than mere automobile.
Topping out at over $43-large, our tester was well appointed and never left us with anything less than a huge grin every time we got out after a drive. Nothing less than a spectacular car can produce such emotion and vigor.
BMW is a favorite of many enthusiasts and for good reason: The company builds the best road-going cars available. As an example of this, we were driving about one wet day and went to take a corner, which the Camaro SS we recently drove coerced us to slow down through. The Bimmer begged us to go faster than we thought possible through this particular corner and got us in and out with no drama and had us wanting to drive all the really twisty roads Greater St. Louis has to offer.
Inside, BMW made a comfortable, luxurious cockpit into a thing of beauty. The leather on our test car was perfect without so much as a stitch out of place. The seats were European comfortable (read firm) and were infinitely adjustable. The rear seat was a bit small and wouldn’t be very comfortable for those over 5′ 10″ or so.
The quality of the materials and switchgear was impeccable; as well it should have been for the price and for the reputation. For, you do not purchase a Bimmer for its price. You purchase a Bimmer for its status and pedigree. Or, you purchase one because it makes the seat of the pants a happy place.
The seats were European firm, but with a softness that made long drives comfortable. All switches were easily reachable and felt substantial to the touch. You really feel the luxurious quality of this car in every facet.
In normal, everyday driving, the 330xi is docile except for lurching from a complete stop, despite every effort. Talk about a touchy throttle! We did find, after spending a few days behind the wheel, that if you wait a second or two after releasing the brake that you can control this lurching a bit better, but it didn’t clear up totally.
German engineering has been celebrated for many, many years and the 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder engine in our tester was one of the best in the world. It’s silky smooth and produces plenty of power to move this one-and-one-half-ton car to 60 mph in less than 7 seconds (according to manufacturer specs). It sure felt that fast and there was plenty of power on tap to pass on tight two-lanes or to hurry out of any corner.
Needless to say, we drove our test loop twice in this car, just for the grin-factor.
Our 2002 BMW 330xi tester topped out at $43,035.00, which included $645 for the destination charge.
Base price for the 330xi is $35,740.00. For that much money, you get a whole lot, including the sweet engine; four wheel ventilated and ABS-equipped disc brakes; Dynamic Brake Control, which intervenes during emergency braking to help achieve the shortest stopping distance; all-wheel drive; Dynamic Stability Control, which helps the driver maintain control of the car when he or she gets a little out of hand in the corners; 17-inch alloy wheels; and all the luxury appointments you can stomach.
If you need more stuff and have the money to burn, we’d suggest starting with the option our tester was equipped with: For starters, we had Topaz Blue Metallic paint (a beautiful shade, to say the least) for $475; a cold weather package that includes heated front seats; headlight washers, a split fold-down rear seats, a ski bag and a rear arm rest ($1000); and the premium package that includes leather upholstery, power glass moonroof, “Myrtle” wood trim, auto-dimming interior mirror, rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlights ($2900). The automatic transmission (sans manumatic control since BMW doesn’t offer it) was an extra $1275, along with $300 for run-flat, all-season tires, $700 for xenon headlights, which we highly recommend.
For what you pay, the BMW 3-series is the best thing going. There are a lot of new, and some old, competitors out there, but they never really seem to hit the mark in quality materials, solid engineering or fun-to-drive factor.
The 330xi is one amazing machine that truly adds flavor and grace to the 3-series lineup. Now, if we could only get them to put a manumatic in it…
And here’s the Car of the Day: It’s the Chrysler Crossfire, first seen at the 2003 NAIAS.
It’s shape is interesting and how can any self-respecting car-lover not love the boat-tail effect on the rear end?
Based on the Mercedes-Benz SLK mechanicals, the Crossfire is well=appointed and comes with a potent V6. The convertible was even sexier…too bad it’s now out of production.