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31 Oct 2017

Hallo und willkommen zur Deutschen woche auf BOTB! The BOTB office has only been allowed to play 99 Red Balloons and Hasslehoff on loop all week and it’s a sausage-fest every lunchtime, as everyone is tearing down walls and doing things very efficiently (okay, enough with the stereotypes).

When you think of German marques the list comprises some of the most impressive companies on the planet – the gargantuan VW Group which encompasses Audi (one of our most popular brands), then BMW, Porsche and Mercedes – in fact all four are hugely popular and for good reason. Style, quality, image and performance are all second to none. As ever we have four cars chosen to be In the Headlights and available for one week only and this week they were chosen by Elizabeth de Latour, Editor of Performance BMW. Elizabeth justified her choices below, not that she needed to as they’re all wunderbar! (sorry)

BMW M4 CS

Harder, better, faster, stronger does a pretty good job of summarising this more extreme M4. While the regular version is hardly lacking in focus, the CS amps everything up across the board, with more power, less weight, a host of carbon aero additions and an even more finely-honed chassis. Fast, furious and ferocious, the M4 CS is an exhilarating machine that will never fail to set your pulse racing.

Audi RS4 Avant Carbon Edition

While I’m a BMW fangirl through and through, I’ve always had a lot of time for Audi’s high performance offerings and RS4 Avant Carbon Edition ticks just about every box there is to tick. Obviously there’s 4WD, plus a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 under the bonnet - already plenty to get excited about - but the raft of carbon additions, unique 20” alloys and enhanced interior appointments make the Carbon Edition exceptionally desirable. As an all-round, all-weather performance machine, it’s hard to beat.

Alpina B3S Biturbo Touring

I’ve always been a big fan of Alpina’s offerings and not only are they exceptional to drive and wonderfully exclusive, they do things differently than BMW’s M offerings. The wonderfully capable B3S Biturbo Touring, for example, is not only blisteringly fast, exceptionally luxurious and refined, it’s also the only way to get your hands on a truly high performance 3 Series Touring. If you want to stand out from the crowd without standing out, there are few better ways to do so than with an Alpina.

Porsche Macan Turbo Performance Package

The Macan is the perfect machine if you want a fast 4x4 from Stuttgart but don’t want something as massive as the Cayenne. The Macan Turbo is a handsome beast and the combination of 3.6-litre twin-Turbo V6, 4WD, lofty driving position and SUV practicality makes it a super all-round proposition. The Performance Package adds more power, bigger brakes, lower suspension plus a bunch of other goodies that ramp up the want factor. The Macan Turbo doesn’t just do it all, it does it all brilliantly.

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The word ‘custom’ comes up a lot as Elizabeth talks me through her ongoing project.

“It’s had a full respray in Midnight Purple I,” she says, lighting up. “A full custom re-trim with Corbeau RRS seats, air suspension, custom exhaust with cut-out valve, custom three-piece 19-inch wheels, although at one stage I had 10 sets of wheels in the garage.”

She’s talking about her beloved BMW E39 540i which she bought for less than £1,000 and has spent the last four years restoring.

“I’ve totted the work up and probably spent around £25,000 on it,” explains the 35-year-old. “I’ve no idea what it’s worth now but it’s completely unique. I adore it.

“It had its grand unveiling last year but there’s still a bit of work I want to do in time for next year.”

Her previous runarounds have included a 1987 518i, E46 330i and an 840Ci – beautiful but a money pit – while her current daily is a 630i.

“It’s not the most sensible of sensible cars,” she admits. “I’ve had company cars in the past but driving a 120d just isn’t exciting enough for me. I needed something else to get excited about.”

Writing for and editing magazines for 13 years, including BMW Car, has seen Elizabeth travel the world. Press junkets in the States, Taiwan and South Africa are particularly standouts.

“Performance BMW might not be a big, mainstream magazine but my whole career has been spent on niche titles and I love every minute of my job,” she explains.

“I’ve been doing it for a long time now and still love it. It’s not a proper job because I'm not in a factory - I'm writing about cars and even when it's a bad day it's not really a bad day.

“From a very early age I wanted to write about cars and spent time in my summer holidays working for magazines like Evo. I wrote for the university paper while doing an English degree and it was always going to be the path that I chose.”

Her love was fuelled by road trips as a child.

“My aunt doesn't fly, she only drives. She used to take me and my Uncle on holiday, driving to Spain or Portugal. I spent a lot of holidays in the back of a Mazda 929, or A N Other unexciting car, but I loved the trip itself. The sense of adventure and being shown how to fix a problem.

“I loved the new tech when it arrived, and I loved knowing how something worked. I definitely got excited by sports cars - the styling, the performance, the sound.”

All that ground to a halt when she took her driving lessons in a Kia Pride. And while she passed on the second time, statistics back up her theory that people who pass second time are better than the rest.

“I’ve seen the research so I’m sticking to that.”

Just as we’re wrapping up the interview, Elizabeth mentions she’s something of a whizz with a Rubik’s Cube. Most of you young kids out there won’t know what one of these is, but if you’re born in the 70s or 80s you’ll either have been scarred for life by the puzzle or elevated to God-like status if you could solve it.

Elizabeth is very much the latter.

“I’ve got it down to a minute and a half,” she says proudly, before swiftly adding that the world record is just under five seconds. “I decided I wanted to learn how to solve it and now I just sit on the sofa and cube away. It probably took a week to learn the technique although it does take some of the magic away.

“You can certainly impress your friends, although mine have all mysteriously disappeared since I started playing with my Rubik’s Cube…”

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