Merry old England is a fabulous place to visit, a world of thatched cottages and historic pubs, cobbled streets and warm beer. But while we want the look and feel of traditional England, if the there was no central heating, if feces flowed through the streets and visible bacteria danced in our pint glass, we'd be out of here like a shot. Old World charm goes so far, but we like our modern world comforts.
So it is with cars-for some of us at least. I'd love a classic English sports car but don't want to live with the breakdowns, rust, rattles, brake failures, and the sound of metal folding like paper as it strikes a three-ton SUV. I'm difficult like that, but I could live with the Wiesmann MF4-S. That's because it's a classic car that's built today, right now. This is the Swinging Sixties roadster built around an aluminum monocoque and a BMW M3 DCT drivetrain... by Germans.
We were blown away by their range-topping MF5 that housed the near-nuclear BMW V10. Then PR man Frank Schutz told us to get our asses to Dulmen, as the smaller 414-hp V8-powered roadster could just be their best car yet. He wasn't lying.
The whole lineup has the visual consistency of Aston Martin, that is to say only a car buff could tell them apart. The mid-level MF4-S is smaller and lacks the aerodynamic flips and vents that gave the Wiesmann away as a modern hypercar under the skin, so this one looks like a genuine step back in time. And it is simply gorgeous.
There are delicious details at every twist and curvaceous turn, perfectly managed collisions between old and new, from the perfectly curved rear end punctuated by LED lights through the low-slung sides to the old style grille on the nose.
The color, gray with a blush of pink running through its core, won't be for everyone, and the color-coded wheels, deep pink tonneau cover, and dark red interior perhaps take it too far, but then the choices of colors and combinations of leather and Alcantara is almost infinite and stitched together by grizzled old ladies on the Wiesmann factory floor in the old fashioned way. They don't do robots here. It's a craftsman's paradise.
The inside too is a step back in time: drawstring stowage spaces, simple polished steel door catches, and old-school dials built into a driver-facing center console. There's no real indication that this is a low-volume manufacturer either, there's none of the interesting quirks and the leather is laid down perfectly. But look closely at the cockpit and the Old World charm doesn't feel entirely right. There are new plastic vents, Alcantara-quilted seats, a modern-day stereo, and an LCD screen behind the wheel.
Then there are the plastic paddle shifters behind the wheel, two perfectly milled pedals below, and when I turn the key and push the starter button, the modern day world erupts around me and settles into the deep menacing thrum of a BMW V8 mated to a free-flowing, fuel-dribbling exhaust that gives Bavaria's finest the Messerschmitt resonance BMW's engineers go to sleep dreaming about. A blip of the throttle sends the birds scattering from the nearby trees, and then it's out the factory gates with a tally ho and a toodle pip. The Wiesmann adventure is about to begin. And when it does, it happens without a single, horrific jerk.
There was no doubting the BMW M5 V10 on a hard charge. It's a fantastic engine, but the SMG seven-speed that came with it seemed built solely for the racetrack. That cumbersome transmission lies in the range-topping Wiesmann MF5 supercar until BMW can forget it entirely, and while it feels less jerky in the lighter sports car, it's still a blight on the driving experience.