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ITH - Best of Germany - The Interview {{favouriteCount}} Quantity of Likes

10 Apr 2018

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

Elizabeth de Latour: When the regular M4 is too soft for you and even the Competition Package doesn't give you the hardcore edge you're looking for, that's when you need the M4 CS. A limited production model, the CS is essentially a four-seat GTS and that means 460hp, that muscular carbon bonnet, unique, lightweight forged wheels, a rear diffuser, larger spoiler and those stunning OLED rear lights. It's not just lighter and faster, this might just be the best-looking M4 yet and that all adds up to one of the most desirable M cars ever.

Tim Oldland: BMW have churned out a few higher end variants of the M4 like the GTS and DTM, both of which featured a big wing, silly graphics and awful wheels. Thankfully with the CS they’ve give it some gorgeous wheels, sensibly upped power (no silly water injection system here) and a lovely lip spoiler to finish off the looks. Oh and it’s available in my favourite colour – San Marino Blue – so I’m a happy camper. Yes please.

Audi RS4 Carbon Edition

EdL: Fast estates are arguably what Audi does best and the RS4 Carbon Edition is one of its best yet. It's a great-looking machine and enhances its appeal with the practicality of it being a wagon combined with the security of quattro all-wheel drive. You'll need it, as there's 450hp to play with, courtesy of a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 under the bonnet. Throw in the unique 20” alloys and carbon additions that are exclusive to the Carbon Edition and you've got yourself one of the finest – and fastest – family-friendly performance machines around.

TO: I think my views on the new RS4 have been very widely documented – it’s probably my ultimate all-rounder that I would have from the competition. I love the RS6 and E63S, but they’re really big machines and you’d struggle to top 20mpg most of the time. Sure the RS4 may have lost a little of the aural excitement, but it’s faster, handles better than before and looks spectacular and isn’t huge. I’ll take one in green please!

VW Golf GTI Performance DSG

EdL: Ever since the Mk5 Golf GTI came along, this iconic hot hatch has been getting better and better (and hotter with it) and the GTI Performance is the hottest incarnation of the Golf yet, bar the R. The Performance pack takes power to a healthy 242bhp, enough for a 0-62mph dash of just 6.2 seconds, plenty quick, while the superb DSG gearbox is smooth, snappy and ultra-responsive, the perfect partner for the GTI's willing and super-capable chassis. As an all-round package, the GTI Performance is hard to beat.

TO: Yep – all-round is the key phrase that Elizabeth has nailed. The Golf’s rivals may be quicker, more outrageous to look at or even more exciting to drive, but when you combine the understated yet classy looks of the Golf GTi with the more than adequate performance and utterly brilliant handling, then chuck in easily the best interior in the class, the Golf starts to look hard to beat.

AC Schnitzer M2

EdL: The M2 is widely regarded as BMW's best M car in years, taking the essence of the legendary E30 M3 and pumping it into a modern performance machine that delivers the analogue thrills we crave in this digital age. But what if you want more of those thrills? Enter German BMW tuning expert, AC Schnitzer, and its ferocious M2. At the hands of ACS, power now climbs to 420hp with 428lb ft of torque while coilovers sharpen the chassis and aggressive aero elements, mostly made from lush carbon, give the wide-arched performance machine an even more aggressive edge.

TO: Some would say it’s hard to improve on perfection and the M2 to many is he best M/// car on sale today. But the world would also be rather boring if we all thought the same, so thankfully some think the M2 needs a little more of everything. More power, more handling, more aggression and AC Schnitzer are the company to give that to you should you want it. An extra bonus of this kit is that it’s all covered by Schnitzer’s 3yr warranty, so no worries about anything going wrong with the tuned parts. It’s a win-win situation!

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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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