Why You Need To Own A Sports Saloon
Practical Performance

For a very long time, I’ve had a lot of love for sports saloon cars. The swollen looks, borderline stupid power-plants often delivering licence-losing performance, all wrapped up in a practical package that can be used on a daily basis. Sports saloons have always had my attention.

But despite the lust, it took me a while to actually drive one.


My first proper sports saloon encounter was on a Continental tyre launch in 2009 at the Autódromo do Algarve‎, which is a posh, purpose-built circuit known as Portimao, in Portugal. To be honest, at the time I didn’t fully appreciate how special the track was.


What I did know, though, was that I desperately wanted to turn the traction control off in the W204 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Estate that I’d just been handed the keys to. But no matter how long or hard I pressed that button in the middle of the dash, the TC would not deactivate. I felt cheated, but took it for a few laps, anyway. The noise was amazing; the crackles, pops and bangs the exhaust made all seemed too good to be true for a stock standard production car.


As I pulled back into the pit lane, there was another Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG – albeit with one less door – sat waiting for someone to ‘test’ the tyres. It had the optional 19-inch wheels and looked absolutely perfect. I parked up next to it and quickly jumped into the driver’s seat. As luck would have it, the illuminated yellow light on the dash signified that the ESP was off. Result.


Now, I don’t proclaim to be a future FD star in the making, but even a stock C63 wants to spin the wheels inappropriately at pretty much all times, and for the next 10 minutes I felt like I was taking part in a Best Motoring battle! Suffice to say, I returned to the pit lane and wanted to own a C63 with immediate effect.


So what the heck has this got to do with Jason Whipple from Rotiform’s M3? Well, fast-forward just shy of eight years, and I found myself in the driver’s seat of the F80 you see here, in Compton, Los Angeles, over 5,000 miles from home.

A lot happened in the time between; I left my job at Fast Car magazine, watched the cost of fuel in the UK soar and the values of 6.2-litre V8-powered saloon cars with an AMG badge on the back fall. These changes meant I could buy my dream car. Affording to run it would be a different matter, but like all good plans I would worry about that later.


It turns out that running costs of a C63 aren’t actually that bad, and as such the car became my daily vehicle. As I gripped the steering wheel of Jason’s BMW, the AMG was parked at Heathrow airport either gathering dust or getting covered in rain. Probably the latter.


I didn’t give it much thought because the dash in the F80 was lit up like a Christmas tree and this meant that traction control was well and truly off. This did give me a flashback to that time in Portugal, but on this occasion there would be no private race circuit to enjoy the rear-wheel drive performance, just the streets of LA.


Those with eagle eyes will have spotted the lack of DCT paddles on the steering wheel and will likely celebrate that Jason opted for manual transmission. Heading out onto the freeway, the GIAC-tuned 3.0-litre twin-turbo motor wanted to spin the wheels in second and third gears.


I’m not a massive fan of the noise that F8x models make from the outside, especially with an open exhaust system. But this car, with its howling Injen intake and Magnaflow cat-back valved exhaust combo, sounds like some sort of NASA science experiment. And, lord have mercy, it’s fast.


It’s almost five years to the day since I first shot a car with Larry for Speedhunters. For that story, we drove a beautiful 964 Turbo to the Edition 38 show held in the UK.


This time, we had Louis along with us which allowed Larry to capture these killer tracking shots.


This rear image is my favourite; the white body colour shows off the M3’s design well and you get a good view of the carbon fibre roof. I always think it’s crazy how close you have to get when capturing rolling shots. Looking in the rear-view mirror for this shot it felt like Louis was about half a meter behind in the chase car, whereas the photo itself makes it seem like the M3 is quite a long way in front.


The IDL Design carbon front lip looks great scooping up the road ahead, and the red wheel centres key in with the interior pretty well, too.


Oh, and the brakes. Jason fitted Brembo’s new 6-piston/405mm front kit and 4-piston/380mm rear kit in time for the SEMA Show last year and has been daily driving his M car ever since. Stopping power, as you can imagine, is significantly improved over stock. Plus, the centre caps match the caliper colour nicely. It’s like Jason’s thought this through!


Whilst we’re on the subject of wheels, Rotiform RSE forged Mono2 concave in 20×10-inch and 20×12-inch are fitted at the front and rear, respectively, for a fairly aggressive setup. Cleverly, Jason opted to create a set of forged wheels that would look similar to Rotiform’s recently launched RSE cast wheel. The design of this wheel pays homage to the 1990s DTM era, and in its white hue Jason’s F80 reminds me of Steve Soper’s E36 Super Touring. To save you Googling what I’m on about, Andy Blackmore put together this this retrospective story back when we were still cooking by candlelight and Wings West was a thing. Incidentally, by reading that story, I just learned that Andy’s first ever livery design was made famous by a collision of Toyotas. I was also reminded how much I want to own a Volvo 850 Estate. Anyway, we digress. Back to sports saloons.


In Europe, ’90s race cars made more doors cool. The DTM and BTCC race series – with its aggressive, splitter-hugging body styling, huge wheel and brake combos and bumper-to-bumper racing action – captured the hearts and minds of car lovers across the planet. My dad took me to a few rounds of the BTCC and I was one of the many kids that fell in love with this rowdy race series.


In the ’90s, Europe got cars like Audi’s 2.7 Bi-turbo B5 S4, the Volvo T5R and, of course, the M3. BMW’s version of the sports saloon has evolved significantly over the last three decades. Now the model is only available with four doors, comes with a carbon fibre roof as standard, and most dramatically, a 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged motor. The boost-fed engine is the least likely thing you could predict to come out of the M department when natural aspiration was, once-upon-a-time, life.


A lot has changed in the world of sports saloons over the years and the same can be said for our friends at Rotiform. Jason co-founded the company with Brian Henderson back in 2009 and it has gone from strength to strength in the time since.


You can read the full story here, as penned by our favourite Irish person, Mr. Paddy McGrath. Much like you or I, the guys at Rotiform simply love all things automotive. Jason’s put his heart and soul into what’s affectionately known as the Million Dollar Scirocco, which hopefully we’ll bring to you in the future. He’s joking about the million dollars, of course. At last count it was only half that.


As cool as the money pit Scirocco may well be, from a practicality point of view, the VW has nothing on Jason’s M3. If you’re looking at that front lip and thinking, how on earth is that car a useable daily driver, well you’d have a point. The M3 runs super-low on Bilstein Clubsport coilovers, which could make it a real hassle to get over speed bumps and the ramps of Los Angeles. This kit has been cleverly modified to use a front lift bag system.


At the touch of a button, just under 2-inches of lift is delivered in a split second by an Air Lift Performance 3H controller. Bumps in the road are no longer an issue.


As we headed back to Rotiform’s HQ in Compton, it struck me that I’d found an almost perfect sports saloon, albeit a far from stock one. With over 520hp, a tendency to spin the wheels and killer looks, Jason has brought a bit of ’90s DTM to the streets of SoCal. If only it had the C63’s V8 soundtrack it would be absolutely perfect. The thing I really love about sports saloons is their do-everything abilities. You can get your friends in the back, pack loads in for a week’s road tripping and still hit the track when you fancy it. For me, they’re the perfect daily.


That’s it, then! I’m moving to LA and I’ll have an F80 M3 with a W204 C63 motor, complete with manual transmission and the Rotiform treatment, please! What would be your ultimate sports saloon?

Ben Chandler
Instagram: ben_scenemedia

Photos by Larry Chen
Instagram: larry_chen_foto

Jason Whipple’s F80 BMW M3

BMW M 3.0-litre inline-six twin-turbo, Status Gruppe downpipes, Magnaflow cat-back valved exhaust, GIAC Tuning reflashed ECU, Injen Evolution Roto-Molded Air Intake System, Injen itercooler charge pipes

6-speed manual transmission

HP Drivetech Static Bilstein Clubsports with front lift bag system, Air Lift Performance 3H management to run the lift bags, Brembo 6-piston/405mm front kit, 4-piston/380mm rear kit

Rotiform RSE forged Mono2 concave 20×10-inch (front) and 20×12-inch (rear), Toyo Proxes T1 Sport 255/30R20 (front) and 305/25R20 (rear)

IDL Design carbon front splitter, Status Gruppe rear carbon spoiler, Lightwurkz blacked-out headlights

Jason thanks: Boden Autohaus and Benzworks

Cutting Room Floor


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Only if it where a wagon


Haha. We just had this exact same conversation in the office. I love saloons, whereas Ryan prefers a wagon as a daily.


If I had £25k kicking about for a used family/dog hauler, I'd certainly be considering an E61 M5 Touring, although I could be sold on an E63 AMG just by the noise.
Either way, I don't have £25k kicking about so a 320i is probably closer to reality at the moment


agree and bought one... W211 E63 and I don't regret it one bit after 7 months. Adjustable air suspension and a V8 soundtrack from the gods. At 4pm when I stomp on the gas leaving work and hear the noise it makes... it makes any bad day good.


Wagon life forever. I just don't get why you would want to limit yourself, I've never been in a situation where I wished I had a saloon, but plenty where I'd wished I had a wagon.


Its the wagon life for me next!


The perfect sports saloon for me is the W205 C63 S. I love the look of it, it´s aggressive, but not too much. Interior wise you can order it with performance seats (which would be a must for me) and ceramic brakes, you can switch the sound from "don´t wake up your neighbours at 5am" to "every racetrack is my home", and it deliveres 510 hp, which is more than enough for almost every situation.


I really wanted a W205 C63S after sitting in one two years ago at Goodwood Festival of Speed. I agree that you absolutely have to the new C63 with the sports seats. In the UK the S models come with these as standard, it's just the 'poverty' non-S models that have the 'Uber-executive' seats. Haha. The 'Premium Package' comes with a lovely glass roof which features double sunshine 'skylights'. Honestly, I'd still really love to own one. I think I'd lean towards a wagon, though. They look a little wider at the back. The new C63S Coupe is a really special car. Proper widebody and looks way better than the old W204 Coupe. Plus, with simple tuning they make 600+hp. They just don't sound quite as good as the 6.2-litre motor in the older car. Nothing is perfect, I guess.


Oh okay, that´s a pretty good information. Here in Germany, no matter if you order the S model or not, the performance seats are an option and you have to pay an extra amount of money for them. "Poverty models" made me laugh, hahahaha! I also really want to own one. but instead of "buy a car that can do everything" I went the other route: "buy for everything a car". The Coupe really looks way more aggressive (especially from the back), than the saloon or wagon. I agree with you, they really look better than the W204 Coupes, but at that time, I loved them, too. The sound of the new 4.0 biturbo engine is perfect for me even though I also loved the old 6.2 NA engine.


Perfect sports saloon... this one. I'm not much of a BMW fan but this nails it for me. I got over taken by an F80 M3 the other day on the M1, it was purple in colour and even in its standard form it looked absolutely stunning. The guy behind the wheel had a massive grin on his face and from the outside it was easy to see why! It certainly brightened up my evening trip to Ikea.


Purple with ceramic gold brake package would look killer! Ikea lol. I hope you got a hot dog and an ice cream, Jay?


That's the worst part about it, I didnt! Just a book case and a chair which is yet to be built.


BMW = BrIrish Motor Works... just kidding. Beautiful car!


Id like a 3 series someday, I think the 7 is too big.


You want M Car looks but V8 soundtrack? obvious choice in my opinion would be go with the E92, now i know its a coupe, but its a big car and a decent 2+2 if you wanna have some friends in the back


I hear what you're saying. I'm a sucker for new tech, though. E90 M3 manual is a brilliant car, though.


There was a sedan version: E90. Coupe's got nicer taillights though.

There was a sedan version: E90. Coupe's got nicer taillights though.

There was a super rare E90 M3 which was a proper 2+2. Check out the CRT: http://www.bmwblog.com/2017/05/04/ultra-rare-bmw-m3-crt-grabs-299950/

Not sure I'd pay $300k for it, though. Bit strong!


"will likely celebrate that Jason opted for manual transmission."

No celebration going on over here... Why would you assume that all of us care about this M3 having a manual? SH staff sometimes come off as a bunch of manual transmission apologists..this is one of those times.


Let's be honest, a tonne of people who read Speedhunters get upset at even the thought of sitting in the driver's seat of a car without a gearstick. Personally, it all depends on what I am going to be using the car for. Plus, I live in London, so a DCT F80 M3 daily would bring me more pleasure than a manual. I don't apologise for good dual-clutch transmissions at all.


Honestly though, driving ANYTHING in London is thankless.


Haha. Are you debating with yourself, here? I actually really enjoy driving in London. At all times, it's a game. Before 6am, when the streets are empty, it's a lot of fun, too. Plus the sights can be pretty cool.


Not necessarily - true if cruising through late at night, but then rolling burnouts, so....


Driving in LDN is torture 99% of the time.


That 1% is proper fun, though!


No, you need a Sports Estate.


Amen brother!!


Like an Alpina?


Does an Evo IX MR count as a saloon? :-D :-D


That, my friend, is a genuine RALLY CAR! :)


Hahaha, shame, still has 5 doors. :-D
I'll have to think hard on that one...


Wow, in Compton in THAT car!? Glad you're alive now. Not a very safe area at all, like at all LOL.



Ha! Honestly, I have never had any problems there. I was shooting a car around 15-years ago in a more industrial area and you could feel the vibe change as it was getting dark. Then it was time to leave! Same with anywhere in the world.


A Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, yeah, a japanese sport 4-door-sedan.


Yawn.... Why don't you feature a VF Commodore/Chevy SS instead? It would be more interesting.


Well if they didnt do a M3 Touring, I made one :D at least the optic part included wider rear arches, underneath it was still a 335i with nearly 450hp, bucket-seats and a rollcage :D does it count? ;D


Looks aggressive. I'd definitely move over and let you past! Good work.


Yeh my friend Nicholas cas was amazing, and i say was, becouse it got crashed a few weeks back =( and also sad to say my 335i "M3" got stolen by the same time from my parking lot =(

World is now two m3 Tourings short, and it sucks so bad!!


I saw that. Really bad luck for Nick!


His M3 Touring was an inspiration for mine, thats one I really cant miss mentioning :)


Favourite Sports Saloon, my 2004 Passat W8. That was a buy first think about fuel/parts later...now I can't find front brakes and she is just sat there looking miserable!


Being from Australia there are plenty of sports sedans and I've driven a few, from HSV GTS F-series (LISA power, manual) to a couple of FPV F6/Typhoons, to old school Falcon GTs, when you are behind the wheel it doesn't matter how many doors there are.

Perhaps the original sports was the Lotus Cortina, even though it had 2 doors that was what cheap sedans did in those days, it wasn't a coupe.


Speaking of GM, the Lotus Carlton achieved legendary status here in the UK due to it's lack of speed limiter and 180mph potential on the road. Oh, and it being the getaway car of choice for criminals. Granted the Carlton was more of a Super Saloon than a Sports Saloon, but it's still worth a mention. You guys get some proper cool Holdens down under!


Yes I remember that one, one review described the front air dam intake as being large enough to swallow a small sheep.

The last cool Holdens will be built soon unfortunately, just over a month before local production shuts down...

Plus, autocorrect got me again, the GTS has an LSA engine of course, not LISA!


I doubt I'll have the cash to hand when the time comes to upgrade, but I'd love to get into the Jaguar XE as my next car. I test drove one and I really enjoyed it. Hopefully used car prices come down a bit before I am ready to buy.

Then, basically give it the works. I feel like Jag really has a potent platform.


Interesting choice! The new Jags are pretty nice.


Sure, I sports saloon would be fantastic...but not everyone can afford to own one, let alone the fuel cost to daily one. I would love an M3, but with 160km commute every day, I would be forced to eat KD every day to run the damn thing.


Yeah, that wouldn't be the smartest financial decision. Especially in the UK where fuel prices are crazy.


Funny, I read this whole article yesterday, then I saw this exact car in Redondo Beach later on. Looks just as great in person!


Looks killer. I believe Jason already has a new C63 W205 project in the making, too. Keep an eye out for it if you're local.


A 190E Evo would be the dream sports sedan. Too bad Mercedes hated enthusiasts at the time and only came out with like 1000 of them worldwide! Ugghhhh, one day...


Time to trade in the Subaru project already, Louis?


Never! I should buy a lift so I can park one car under the other in the garage, haha.


I'd have RB26DETT manual swapped WC34 rwd Stagea as somehow relatively cheap tuner, W204 or W205 C63 Estate as modern ride and new Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo as dream car beyond limits.
All I'd have bagged on BBS or Japanese wheels with proper rim to arch fitment.
#WagonHunters ftw.


You can't tell us that this F80 sounds good and not have a video :(


Similar setup on an e90 m3.

Andrei Rosas Sánchez-Silva

If we are talking about saloons, I would go with a W204 C63 AMG. While on the wagon selection, I love the Audi RS6 Avant