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Cars on Campus: BMW’s, Ice Racing,and Mailboxes

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I became friends with Mikhal Yudien ’19 through some mutual friends. Essentially, my friends knew I was into cars, and they were like, “Yo, we know this girl who is into cars; you should meet her.” I was like, “Sure, sounds cool.” Little did I know, I was going to meet someone who dresses like Batwoman, drives stick-shift, and races her car for fun. In other words, Yudien’s pretty badass. Okay, pretty damn badass. But don’t let the black leather jackets fool you — Yudien has always been super approachable. Soon enough, I came to realize Yudien drove a BMW E90 335xi. Let’s get some jargon out of the way before we talk about that, though.

The words “E90 335xi” tell you the model, model year, engine option, and the drivetrain of the car, whether it is all-wheel drive or only rear-wheel drive. “E90” was the internal code BMW used for all 2007-2013 model year 3-series models that were 4-door sedans; the 3-series is BMW’s most iconic model, offered in both 2-door and 4-door variants. E92 was the internal code given to the 2-door coupe, and E93 was the internal code given to convertibles. All 3-series model names begin with 3, and then have a suffix, like “-35”, attached to them (i.e. “335”). The -35 suffix tells me that the car comes with an inline, where the cylinders are all in one line, 6-cylinder engine that is turbocharged. Long-story short, turbochargers force more air into the engine, which means the engine can use more fuel to complement the increase in air, which means that the “internal combustion” that goes on in the engine will produce more power.

Finally, the “x” denotes that the car has BMW X-Drive, which is simply BMW’s all-wheel-drive system (drivetrain). Yudien is not a huge fan of the all-wheel-drive, well because, it takes away from the badassery (read: driving like a race-car driver) she aspires to.  

“Although it’s crucial for Vermont winters, the fact that it’s four-wheel drive makes drifting much trickier,” Yudien says.  Oh, and also, it’s a stick-shift. Because driving matters.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about the car itself. In all honesty, it’s not too noticeable — its silver color and 4-door format don’t make much of an impression at first glance. Perhaps the only striking things you’ll notice are the studded winter tires Yudien  has on her car (more on this later) However, once Yudien let me drive it, I realized the car was the epitome of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. As soon as you start driving it, you realize, “My goodness, do the Germans know their shit when it comes to making cars.” The manual transmission feels great, perhaps a little loose, but its (frankly, mind-boggling) ease of use makes up for any slight shortcomings that the car may have. The steering feels heavier than anything I’ve ever driven, but its sublime, man. You feel a direct connection to the front tires, and it gives the driver confidence to place the car where he/she wants to.

Yudien agreed with me, saying “I love the acceleration and how it handles for a stock car; I can take turns really smoothly and still accelerate quickly out of them.”

And what about that engine? Inline, 6 cylinder engines are known to be extremely smooth in their operation, because the engine harmonics are perfectly balanced as a result of the layout of the engine. Mash the gas pedal, and you’re pushed forward by a smooth rush of 300 horsepower that thrusts you all the way to 60 mph in a mere 5.1 seconds. It sounds amazing too, with crackles and burbles and pops coming out of the exhaust frequently. Overall, the driving experience is pure joy. All the parts come together to produce a car that not only is competent, but more importantly, inspires confidence in the driver and puts a smile on your face every time you drive it.

So, now that you’ve had enough of me going gaga over Yudien’s car by using some weird terms that nobody cares about, let’s get back to those studded tires on her car. Yudien is from Vermont, and in case you didn’t know, Vermont gets a metric shit-ton of snow. When I asked her about it, she said the studded tires are pretty much necessary for winter driving in Vermont. They also probably help out for when she races on frozen lakes. Yeah, you heard that right, frozen lakes:

“Basically it’s the same as on-land autocross — we set up cones in a winding course and do time trials.  Since we have little to no traction, the real challenge comes with drifting around all the corners and managing to stay on-course.  The part that usually scares people the most is that you can constantly hear the ice cracking beneath the tires, even though the ice is more than a foot thick.”

 

That sounds real wild if you ask me. But it’s all part of the persona, I guess. The love of cars runs in the family, so it’s not surprising what Yudien is willing to do with her car. She explains that her love for cars —and taking them onto frozen lakes — started at an early age.

“My stepdad was always revamping his ’70 Lotus Europa S2 in our basement, so I grew up talking about cars and racing with him.  Before I could drive — I won’t lie — I was obsessed with Mario Kart.” she admitted.

“When I was 11 I insisted that I take the car up and down the road to check the (usually empty) mailbox about five times a day.  When I was a little older I first went out on the [frozen] lake in my stepdad’s car while he did donuts and I loved the adrenaline rush that came with having no traction.”

Which brings me to my final point. In the first edition of my column, I talked about why anyone should give a damn about cars. I described how cars are wonderfully intricate engineering marvels. However, it goes beyond that. Cars are about experiences. Cars are about memories. And most importantly, cars are about people.

They’re about your dad fixing the flat tire on the minivan. They’re about the ML shuttle you take back to your dorm at 2AM. And if you’re anything like Mikhal, they’re about your stepdad taking you out in his ’70 Lotus Europa S2 onto a frozen lake in Vermont.

 

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