Apologies to those of you who follow my blog for its Porsche content (which, I suspect, is all of you, come to think of it…).
I’ve recently taken in a couple of sports cars which aren’t Porsches but are both German and rather good in their own right.
First off is a Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 Kompressor. Yes, the favourite transport of Waitrose shopping ladies of a certain age. And do you know what? I rather like it. No, I really do. It’s a remarkably solid and well-engineered machine, with that legendary Mercedes build quality. It’s small and well-proportioned and the folding hardtop is a work of genius.
The 2.0-litre supercharged engine drives the rear wheels via an effective automatic transmission. There’s a decent amount of power and it’s a nippy, if not fast, car. OK, it’s not going to set the world on fire in terms of dynamics but it is a smooth, quite and civilised cruiser, roof up or down. It’s a car you could quiet happily drive all day, in comfort.
My next excursion into the non-Porsche world is very different. It’s a BMW ZS3 Roadster with the large straight-six 3.0-litre engine. What a brute! With its long humped bonnet and seats almost over the rear wheels, this feels like a traditional British sports car, complete with heavy steering and lashings of understeer. Refined it’s not, but it’s fun and makes me want to reach for the flat cap.
However, that’s where the British sports car analogue ends. The Z3 boast proper German engineering, which means that the soft top (electrically operated) doesn’t leak, the bodyshell is stiff and rattle-free, and there’s all the mod-cons you’d want, including traction control, electric windows, air-conditioning and comfy leather seats.
Two fun roadsters for the summer and each for under £5000. It’s hard to think of an argument against either car, apart from the fact I’d rather be driving a Porsche, of course…