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What am I missing about Cambiocorsa?

4040 Views 26 Replies 17 Participants Last post by  Rich Hale
I test drove a GrandSport for the first time today in Southern Cal. And, well, I came away pretty disappointed and confused. First, it is in nearly every way a glorious car. I love the looks, the cockpit, the driving position, the ride, the glorious sound, and the sensational engine and its enormous pulling power. It's hard to imagine a more satisfying Coupe. At the risk of offending Porschefiles, I found it much more visceral and subjectively faster than the 911S (I know about the numbers.)

But . . . the cambiocorsa sequential transmission on the car I drove was, certainly by BMW standards, primitive to the point of my wondering if it was defective. I should say, in advance, that all the driving I did was in Sport Mode, and was under the supervision of a nervous sales rep. I've read the threads bemoaning the difficulty of launching the car from a stop, but I sort of assumed that it really wouldn't just sit there forever in first before deciding to move. Little old ladies in Civics were on the other side of the intersection before the GranSport started moving on out. Is the choice really to just sit there as it decides to move, or to stomp on it like a street racer to get its rear moving (with all the attendant drama of smoke and squeal?)

The downshifts, moreover, were molasses slow. The sequential in my BMW 550i seems to downshift twice as fast, while the downshifts in my previous 2003 M3 (in S5, not even in the most extreme S6 setting) seemed four times as fast. Is this just the way it is? If so, the transmission just seems incompetent to me. And with a technology that is certainly mature for both Ferrari and BMW, inexcusable. Tell me I'm missing something, that the sales rep just didn't know how to set it up or tell me what to do, or that there must have been something wrong, or that I just messed up. Or at least tell me that there is a new twenty-first century sequential in the pipeline.

If anyone in Southern Cal thinks I've got this wrong, I'd love a demonstration, and would gladly swap a little driving in my Z4 M Coupe (serious fun).

She's still a beauty, and the engine is fabulous, but . . .
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Vincent said:
hmmm... I am not an expert but isnt the sequential on a BMW is an automatic and the cabiocorsa is a manual with an eletric clutch?

so far I havent been overtaken by an old lady in a ivic... maybe you guys have much faster grannies in the US than the ones here in Hong Kong. ;)

No, the BMW acronym SMG stands for sequential manual gearbox. It is a manual transmission with a clutch controlled by a microprocessor. It's not available on all BMWs, but is an option on all their M cars except for M Roadsters and M Coupes as well as others--like the 550i--in the line.
Well, it's starting to sound as if there is a good possibility of a clutch problem.

First, for anyone who hasn't driven the BMW SMGs at length, you should know that with some experience they become super driver's tools--off the line (no need for launch control) or in spirited driving either on the road or on the track. And, in all but the most aggressive mode, you learn how to make them upshift seamlessly. They're terrifically engineered, but need a little practice with throttle modulation on upshifts; as well as practice blipping throttle in less aggressive modes on downshifts. (This is why some folks who are new to them have issues with them.) The SMG in my 550i is a very genteel cousin of the SMG on M3s, 5s, and 6s, and just needs flicking the paddle and nothing else to do all it's told. But both versions of the SMG would--with say the pedal depressed at a reasonable rate a third to half way--make the slowest BMW leave the GranSport I drove a half a block behind--unless I wanted to stomp on the accelerator: which I just don't.

Now a couple more details:

When I stepped on the accelerator at the rate I would do in a Bimmer the car did not move at all until it reached something like 2,000 rpms, then it gradually found its way across intersections. So, the clutch was apparently not engaging at all then slipping seriously as the gear engaged. Conversely, when you step on a BMW SMG in first, the car simply goes. This is what struck me as bizarre. Is this normal? Is this just a matter of depressing the accelerator down further and faster?

What makes me think from all your responses that things were not as they should be was the response that downshifts are normally instantaneous. Believe me, no one would have thought these were instantaneous. To repeat, the fairly mild SMG on the 550i is easily twice as fast downshifting as was the CC on the GranSport I drove.

Not sure what to do next. I was, literally, just a breath away from a purchase. But not at the moment.
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You might be my savior here. Send a PM and maybe we can arrange a driving session. I'd be happy to come to you, and we can bring both the Z4 M Coupe and the 550i for you to play with.

gransport 13:

Thanks for the reply. I've sent you a PM. The CC is 10 times better than the SMG? Just as good and I join the club.

In fact thanks to all. My experience just doesn't fit with everyone's responses. And I'm sure enough willing to blame my lack of familiarity with the CC; in fact I'm eager to do that. It's just extraordinarily puzzling after having sequential manual cars for the last four years (and having driven them vigorously) to have bumped into something so unlike my experience.

I'm looking to have a happy ending to the story.

I appreciate the post very much. I've sent you a PM.
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