Cars have gotten so good in recent years that a new base model can be better than an older top-of-the-line performance model. Engineers have managed to coax much more horsepower out of smaller, more efficient engines while also increasing vehicle size and improving ride and handling.
Comparing new cars to vintage cars isn’t really feasible for buyers looking for the latest in safety and technology features. For buyers who want fun performance without the frills, though, it might be worth going back a few years (or decades) to find a model that was once considered the best an automaker had to offer.
With the refreshed 3 Series and a new 340i model, we now have a regular 3 Series that has more power than the Porsche-beating M5 of the ‘90s.
And it inevitably raised the question: is a regular 3 Series better than an older M car with similar power and weight? There are fewer differences than you think—they’re nearly the same size, with the 340i being a couple inches wider and taller, but four inches shorter.
The general consensus is that the new 3 Series is better than an older M5 in terms of power, transmission, and handling. The older car, though, is praised for its steering feel, which the new electronic systems can’t duplicate.
It could be argued that the vintage cars excel in high style while the new ones have the market cornered for high tech. Old cars capture the soul and passion of automobiles while new cars lack the emotional bond between man and machine. That’s probably because the bond has been replaced by computers that make most of the driving decisions. The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL illustrates that pretty well when compared against a modern SLS AMG.
What about a Mustang? The base 2016 Mustang V6 is probably better than a 4.6-liter V8 GT from a decade ago. Both offer about 300 hp, but the new car has better handling and improved fuel economy. The V6, though, won’t come close to the auditory experience provided by the V8.
Should people turn up their noses at old cars? Of course not. People who prefer the raw engineering and simplicity of vintage cars will keep them from going obsolete, while the modern technology of new cars will continue to redefine what a driver’s car should be.
What’s your favorite car, and do you prefer the modern version or a vintage model?