Alright, so I want to start out by thanking some vocal members of the MK7 Facebook group for giving some insights before I dive into this article. Without them, I wouldn't have nearly the insights. So let's start out with some definitions. What is a performance car? Why not sports car? Well, I think a sports car is made up of "driver focused, 2-door, 2-seater, not just quick--but a focus on feel by being light and well-balanced." (Thanks Aaron). To me, a performance car is the same things, but without the constraint of 2-door, 2-seater. So, a broader definition. This means things like a BMW 3-Series or a Audi A4 should also be considered performance cars. Yes, they are luxury performance cars, but performance cars nonetheless.
Now that we have that...why are they dying? For me I take a trip down memory lane, looking at some older BMW's. Think of the E36 M3, when it came out it was praised as one of the best handling cars. The E46 followed suit and got rid of that atrocious interior. Even the USDM M3 now had ITB's. Yay! But more than that, if you've driven one, you know the focus. The steering feel. The body roll. The response. The turn in. The balance. A big part of that balance was the weight, 50/50 distribution (or close to on most 3-series variants). Additionally, they weren't THAT heavy. With the E36 M3 ~3200lbs and the E46 M3 ~3400lbs.
So the E90 and F30 M3's are still performance cars right? Well? Are they? One of the things we said defined a sports car, and thus performance car (God I hate getting hung up on these definitions), is weight. Driver feel. Let's take a look at some numbers first. With the DCT, an E90 and F30 weigh in at 3583 and 3439lbs respectively. That's not exactly a light car anymore. They're definitely quick, having upwards of 400hp, but, how about the rest of the categories?
Look, I can't speak for an F30 M3, I haven't driven one. But I've spent a lot of time in an E90 M3, and while a great GT car, I don't know if it has that same driver's feel. That agility. The nimbleness. The stiff chassis. Did you know, during testing of the E90 they has far less structural bracing? Well, it turned out this was so much of a problem, the windshield cracked during testing because the chassis itself was flexing so much. Yeah, wow. Now they "fixed" that with bracing, but, a lot of cars (insert JDM goodness here) are that stiff WITHOUT bracing.
Now what's really stupid is let's take a look at my current steed, a Mk7 GTI. It's a 2 door, albeit 4 seater, but 2 door. It's relatively light, at just a hair over 3000lbs. The chassis is unbelievably stiff. No seriously, it poops on my E36 BMW, even after chassis bracing. It's got reasonable power. And most importantly, the driver feedback. The steering on the GTI so freaking tight and responsive.
You probably think I'm crazy, in some sense, saying a GTI is more of a driver oriented car than an M3. And in many ways, your right! But also, an E90 M3 and my GTI cost about the same amount of money (one new, one used, but still an undeniable fact!). And I don't think many people considered E90 M3's against their GTI's. I can't blame them, I wouldn't either except for the fact that I have vast experience driving an E90.
So what's my point here, what's my take away?
BMW lost it. They stopped building car for the driver, and started building cars for the consumer. They make stuff that looks aggressive, but drives like anything else. It's a generic, unpassionate feel. It's not just the car that the gentleman with the bluetooth ear piece buys, the car that's BUILT for the gentleman with the bluetooth ear piece. Somehow, in the midst of this craziness, VAG group woke up and realized they should stop making generic good cars, and make some great cars. For me, the Mk7 is one of those. And while it doesn't do EVERYTHING right (hey it's wrong-wheel-drive), it sure does do a lot things right. So that's why I switched from BMW to VW.