Despite the uncertain state of fuel prices and overall economy, there are still a few who place “fun” above “sensible” when making a new car purchase.
We recently got to test a pair of German imports aimed at that extreme side of the “fun” factor: a BMW M3 sedan and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG sedan.
They share much in common and are head-to-head competitors at the track and on the road. They each complement just about any driveway around the world (as they did mine) and represent true dedication to driving pleasure by the respective performance teams.
Neither uses any fancy supercharging or forced induction tomfoolery under the hood, just plain unadulterated horsepower churning from handbuilt V-8 powerplants strapped inside beefed-up sedan platforms.
And while I don’t have any fancy test equipment or full use of track facilities, I can only render opinion on every day experience. Those of you requiring more intensive scrutiny of the vehicles can find plenty of that information on the big magazine websites, including one head-to-head showdown this past summer that also included the new Lexus hotrod IS-F.
Here are the nuts and bolts of each model:
BMW M3 Sedan
BMW raises the performance benchmark once again with the introduction of the 2008 M3 Sedan. Sharing the M3 Coupe’s high-revving 414-horsepower V8 and balanced chassis that is designed to be “faster than its engine”, the motorsports arm of the German auto maker, BMW M GmbH, is pleased to offer the most powerful, highest-performing M3 ever with four doors.
Originally offered in 1986 as a homologation special to allow BMW’s entry into the German Touring Car Championship, the M3′s popularity and steadily increasing sales for each iteration motivated the company to continue developing this unique combination of driving dynamics, comfort and luxury in a compact machine and offer a new version each time the underlying 3 Series was reborn. Americans were first introduced to the M3 sports sedan concept in 1988.
The first M3 produced 192 hp from its 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine during its 1988-1991 model year run. A legend was born and Americans embraced the high-rpm, naturally-aspirated M concept. The next generation arrived in 1995 with a 3.0-liter (and later, 3.2-liter) 240-hp inline-six powerplant. In 1997 the first M3 Sedan joined the family and the first M3 Convertible followed shortly thereafter. The most-recent version, available as either a coupe or convertible from 2001-2006, again was offered with six-cylinder power, this time providing 333 hp from its 3.2 liters. This vehicle was BMW’s first use of SMG (Sequential Manual Gearbox) for the US market.
The all-new 2008 M3 Sedan and M3 Coupe that arrive in spring 2008 will feature the first V8 in a series-production BMW M3. It will also feature driver-adjustable settings for crucial dynamic controls including steering, damping and stability (and an available steering-wheel-mounted “MDrive” button to store the preferences) and a sumptuous interior that can be optimized to a driver’s desires including the comprehensive entertainment/navigation system operated through BMW’s latest iDrive controller.
Lightweight, efficient V8 at the heart of the BMW M3_The move to eight cylinders in the fourth generation BMW M3 provides a powerplant offering the seemingly disparate characteristics of more power, increased efficiency and reduced weight when compared with the previous six-cylinder M3 engine. Displacing 3,999 cubic centimeters (4.0 liters), the new light-alloy engine produces 414 hp at 8,300 rpm and 295 pound-feet of torque at 3,900 rpm with 85 percent of the maximum torque available consistently through 6,500 rpm. This power output represents a 15-percent increase over the six-cylinder from the last generation M3 and it comes with an eight-percent fuel-economy improvement when compared to its predecessor. Compression ratio is dialed in to 12.0:1 and redline is set at 8,400 rpm.
The V8-power unit within the engine compartment of the new BMW M3 Sedan boasts the company’s variable double-VANOS camshaft management. Offering extremely fast and responsive valve timing, this technology reduces charge cycle losses and improves the output, torque and response of the engine, with a positive influence on fuel economy and emission management.
A separate throttle butterfly for each cylinder – eight in this instance – is a feature adapted from BMW M’s racing heritage and provides immediate reaction to the gas pedal at all times. Two stepper motors operate the four throttle butterflies on each row of cylinders, giving the engine a particularly sensitive response at low speeds together with an immediate reaction whenever the driver presses down the accelerator for extra power and performance.
A volume flow-controlled, pendulum-slide cell pump supplies the engine with lubricating oil, delivering the quantity required by the engine. Wet sump oil lubrication, optimized for dynamic performance, ensures consistent oil supply to the high-rpm engine at all times, particularly in extreme braking maneuvers. The system features two oil sumps-a small oil sump in front of the front axle subframe and a large oil sump behind it.
A new, comprehensive electronic management system coordinates all engine functions with optimum efficiency and maximizes operational integration with the clutch, gearbox, steering and brakes. In addition, the engine control unit performs a wide range of on-board diagnosis functions and masterminds the ancillary engine units.
A highlight of the engine management system is the use of ion-current technology to determine engine knock as well as misfire and poor combustion events within the cylinders. Contrary to conventional methods, this monitoring and control function is performed precisely where the phenomena occurs-within the combustion chambers. The spark plug in each cylinder senses and controls the risk of knocking, at the same time monitoring the correct ignition and recognizing any misfiring. In other words, the spark plug acts as an actuator for the ignition and as a sensor monitoring the combustion process, and is therefore able to distinguish between a misfire and poor combustion. This dual function of the spark plugs facilitates the diagnostic procedures required in service and maintenance.
And the increased performance with better economy comes from the lightweight engine. At 445 pounds, it is seven percent or 33 pounds lighter than the previous model’s Inline-6. Lightweight components do not stop with the alloy engine block. The crankcase is made of a special aluminum-silicon alloy eliminating the need for cylinder liners. Despite the need to resist high combustion pressures and engine speeds-this is the “fastest” production engine ever produced by BMW as it can reach 8,400 rpm-the engineers managed to keep the compact and rigid crankshaft weight down to 44 pounds.
Manual transmission, twin-disc clutch and Variable M Differential Lock_Power from the BMW M3 Sedan’s V8 is transmitted to the rear wheels through a close-ratio six-speed manual gearbox. The performance parameters of the M3 dictated heat management as a key design factor for both the transmission and clutch. The transmission features integrated temperature-dependent oil cooling management, while internal ventilation maximizes heat dissipation for the twin-disc clutch.
The new final drive comes with a Variable M Differential Lock generating up to 100 percent locking action with fully variable action whenever required, ensuring optimum traction on all road surfaces.
Engineering a chassis which is “faster than the engine”_Providing sure-footed responsive handling for a high-performance, powerful and luxurious sedan, while keeping mass under control, presented numerous challenges for the BMW M3′s engineers. The result is a new, aluminum chassis developed specifically for this model. The design begins with placing components in such a way as to create a 50/50 front/rear weight balance.
Virtually all of the front-end components are aluminum, including the front struts, swivel bearings, central subframe and an additional thrust panel below the engine serving to maximize lateral stiffness of the entire front section.
From the rear axle subframe through the transverse arms and track arms, on to the wheel mounts re-configured in their kinematics and stiffness and even the mounting points for the longitudinal arms are now even lighter, all the way to the aluminum dampers. Virtually every detail on the five-arm rear axle made of aluminum is new for this model. These weight-reduction measures and materials help reduce weight by approximately 5.5 pounds when compared to the previous M3.
Both the front and rear axles feature hollow anti-roll bars optimized for their function and weight. Incorporating two additional longitudinal reinforcement bars, axle kinematics are perfectly tailored to the overall character of the car. The result, in terms of both stability and weight, conforms to the balanced performance concept of the BMW M3 Sedan.
Compound brake system_A suitably stout braking system for a car with this much performance was specifically developed for the new M3. Featuring large compound disc brakes and electronic anti-lock, stopping power for the new BMW M3 is strong, precise and consistent. The internally-vented, cross-drilled cast iron discs measure14.2 inches in diameter at the front and 13.8 inches in the rear. They are connected to a floating aluminum hub by cast-in stainless-steel pins. This configuration reduces the thermal loads on the discs, thus increasing their performance and service life. An electrically-driven pump provides the system’s vacuum power.
Service – and safety – is enhanced thanks to an ongoing wear indicator which, through a dash display, allows the driver to monitor the condition of the brake linings. Brake service can thus be administered when necessary without guesswork.
Standard M-style light-alloy spoked wheels measure 18 x 8.5 inches with 245/40 low-profile tires at the front and 18 x 9.5 with 265/40 tires at the rear, can be supplemented by optional 19-inch versions in comparable widths and design.
Servotronic steering with two manually adjustable control maps
Rear-wheel drive keeps the rack-and-pinion steering of the BMW M3 Sedan free of drive forces. A further enhancement is hydraulic Servotronic power assistance controlling steering forces as a function of road speed. There is also a choice of two different control maps activated through normal and sport modes with a console-mounted button.
In Sport mode the BMW M3 provides direct and immediate response with a relatively high steering effort. In the Normal mode, power assistance is comfort-oriented and requires less steering effort.
Latest-generation of Dynamic Stability Control
The electronic Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) monitors driving conditions and intervenes through the application of brakes and reduced engine power to stabilize the BMW M3 and help avoid major over- or under-steer situations.
In addition to engine controls and the ABS, other systems integrated in the DSC are Automatic Stability Control (ASC), which prevents the wheels from spinning on surfaces with reduced traction; the Start-Off Assistant, which prevents the car from rolling back when setting off on a grade, as well as Cornering Brake Control (CBC), which prevents the car from spinning or swerving out of control when applying the brakes in a bend.
The latest version of DSC includes additional functions for even greater driving safety. Whenever the driver is likely to apply the brakes in full within the next few seconds, the system builds up pressure in the hydraulic brake circuit and pre-loads the brake pads to ensure an immediate response. The Dry Braking feature removes water film from the discs in wet conditions, thus reducing the chance of water interfering with the braking process.
Electronic Damper Control recognizing the driver’s style of motoring
The optional Electronic Damper Control (EDC) allows the driver to tailor the vehicle’s chassis dynamics to his or her preference through one of three modes: Sport, Normal and Comfort.
The response of all dynamic driving systems is carefully tailored to the power and performance of the new BMW M3, with electronic intervention of the various systems naturally taking the dynamics of the car into account. Indeed, the driver even has the option to individually configure specific parameters, thus adjusting the response of the car to his personal preferences.
MDrive personalizes the driving characteristics of the new BMW M3_The new M3 provides several standard and optional driver-controlled systems to tailor the driving characteristics to a driver’s personal preferences. The driver can choose, with conveniently located buttons:__- DSC on or off (for a very competent, performance-oriented driver)_- EDC in Sport, Normal or Comfort modes_- Servotronic in Sport or Comfort modes_- Throttle response either direct/sporting or comfort oriented.
A push of the MDrive button on the steering wheel can instantaneously activate the above driver-selectable configurations, turning the new BMW M3 into his or her personalized Ultimate Driving Machine. The settings are stored through menus shown on the dash-mounted screen and controlled by the iDrive (located in the center console). Storing one’s overall preferences under the MDrive allows the driver to modify any of the adjustable settings, yet return to his or her optimum with a simple press of the MDrive button. This feature requires the Navigation/iDrive option.
Athletic, sporting stance separates new BMW M3 Sedan from the pack
Front to back, the design of the new BMW M3 Sedan evokes a purposeful, sporting message. The front end, though clearly a BMW based on the double-kidney shaped grill, flat headlight units with standard Xenon headlamps, boasts three large air intakes below the grill. Since the structure and configuration is determined to primarily feed air into the engine compartment, the BMW M3 Sedan, like BMW M cars in general, intentionally forgoes fog lamps featured on 3 Series models.
The “face” of the new BMW M3 also includes a power dome in the middle of the aluminum hood which, though longer than that of the 3 Series Sedan, blends harmoniously with the overall design.
The two front side panels boast a special sign of distinction characteristic of a BMW M Car and referred to by the designers as “gills,” which incorporate the tri-color (blue/purple/red M3) logo. Rear-view mirrors developed for the new BMW M3 fulfill an important aerodynamic function helping reduce air resistance. Further down the side-line, the pronounced side-sills, give the BMW M3 a light and sporting look.
The new BMW M3 Sedan looks muscular from behind, its design taking up the particular look of the car’s front end. A discreet lip spoiler on the trunklid optimizes the car’s streamlining and reduces lift on the rear axle. In its contours, the split diffuser beneath the rear bumper takes up the shape of the air intakes at the front of the car as the air guide and the dual tailpipes move towards the centerline of the car, visually contracting the rear end at the lower center point. A further feature is the circular shape of the four straight tailpipes in typical BMW M style.
The four metallic paints reserved for BMW M cars (Melbourne Red, Jerez Black, Interlagos Blue and Silverstone) highlight the body, contours and proportions of the four-door with particular intensity. In addition to these unique hues, the BMW M3 is available in Alpine White, Jet Black, or Sparkling Graphite Metallic.
Interior design oriented an active driving experience with luxury
The interior of the BMW M3 has always been a place designed for performance driving, but without compromising the comfort of the driver and the passengers. The new BMW M3 Sedan continues this tradition with the latest innovations. The five seats are surrounded by powerful contours and flowing lines highlighting in particular the concave and convex surfaces. The horizontal lines dominating the area around the dashboard as well as the harmonious surfaces of the side linings give the interior a dynamic note.
The cockpit control area tapers out between the front seats into a newly designed center console which discreetly “swings” towards the driver. Finished in black leather, the console harmoniously continues the instrument surrounds and the control area in terms of both color and shape, comprising three function switches (Power, DSC, and optional EDC) for activating and deactivating the electronic driving programs on the side facing the driver.
Apart from the clear design and optimum ergonomic arrangement of all controls and instruments, the choice of colors inside the new BMW M3 Sedan helps the driver concentrate on driving. Regardless of the upholstery and trim color, the footwells, parcel shelf, headliner, A-pillar trim and the upper part of the instrument panel are all finished in Anthracite. This uniform, dark color scheme around the windshield helps the driver focus on driving.
There is no question as to the heritage of the vehicle upon opening the door of the new BMW M3 thanks to the M car logo in the door sills. The unique nature of the vehicle carries to the dash where the dual circular instruments typical of BMW – the speedometer and fuel gauge as well as the tachometer and oil temperature display – are in specific M style. A feature typical of BMW M cars is the variable warning zone on the tachometer that informs the driver of the recommended engine speed depending on the engine oil temperature. The borderline between the yellow pre-warning zone and the red warning zone moves up as a function of increasing oil temperature to the maximum limit of 8,400 rpm. The digital displays presenting the time, the outside temperature and odometer, as well as the various warning lights, are positioned between the two circular instruments.
The M3′s leather steering wheel, with its thumb contours resting firmly in the driver’s hands, provides an optimum grip for precise movement of the steering wheel. The spokes within the steering wheel incorporate the remote control buttons for the audio system and mobile phone, as well as the optional MDrive button. An additional auxiliary button may be programmed through the optional BMW iDrive system.
As an option, both the front seats are available with backrest-width adjustment, while the rear seats may be equipped with folding seatbacks which provides the 15.8 cubic foot luggage compartment even greater capacity.
A premium AM/FM/single-disc CD audio system comes standard with an auxiliary input jack. Individual entertainment options include SIRIUS satellite radio, HD radio and a USB-enabled port for control of an Apple iPod or iPhone media player. These three options can be bundled together in the Technology Package, should one choose to have them all together.
For vehicles equipped with Navigation, the comprehensive information and entertainment systems are controlled by the refined BMW iDrive. Selecting the Navigation/iDrive option also brings the performance-oriented, steering-wheel-spoke-mounted Mdrive button.
Safety begins with the body structure and continues inside_Occupant safety begins with the design of the new BMW M3′s body structure. Together with defined deformation zones, the use of high-strength steel ensures smooth and direct transmission of forces in a collision and optimum absorption of loads acting on the car. The space available for deformation is also used to avoid any damage to the passenger cell and keep damage to the body itself to a minimum, even in a severe collision.
The electronic restraint systems are tailored to the ultra-strong structure of the body. Six airbags as well as the belt latch tensioners and belt force limiters are activated by the car’s central safety electronics as a function of the type and severity of a collision. Sensors located in the center of the car within the B-pillars and in the doors “tell” the safety electronics which component will offer the occupants optimum protection, with the “proper” restraint systems being activated in the event of a collision.
The driver and front passenger are protected by frontal and side airbags housed in the seat backrests. These four airbags are activated in two stages, depending on the severity of the impact. Through its size alone, the curtain head airbag protects the car’s occupants on both the front and the outer rear seats. And the risk of leg injury in a head-on collision, finally, is reduced on the driver’s side by defined deformation of the footrest.
BMW New Vehicle Limited Warranty: All 2008 BMW passenger vehicles are covered by BMW’s excellent Limited Warranty, which includes:
• New-vehicle warranty – four-year/50,000-mile coverage of the vehicle.
• Rust-perforation warranty – 12-year/unlimited-mileage coverage.
Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG
In the German Touring Car Championships (DTM) the new AMG C-Class ensures exciting motor racing at the highest level, and now its road-going sister model is celebrating its debut: the new C63 AMG. Its AMG 6.3-litre V8 engine develops a peak output of 451-hp and a maximum torque of 443 lb-ft. – unrivalled figures in this segment. Accordingly the C63 AMG accelerates from zero to 62 mph in 4.5 seconds, while its top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph. In conjunction with an all-new front axle, speed-sensitive AMG sports steering and the new, 3-stage ESP, the AMG sports suspension ensures both outstanding driving enjoyment and exemplary handling dynamics. A combination of expressive design, a decidedly sporty interior and a high level of everyday practicality makes the C63 AMG a unique high-performance car. The C63 AMG will make its U.S. retail debut in spring 2008.
With the new C63 AMG, Mercedes-AMG GmbH is making a confident statement to mark the 40th birthday of the company. The new V8 flagship model is now the fifth generation of the AMG C-Class, whose family tree goes back to the C36 AMG of 1993 – the very first vehicle developed as a cooperative venture between Daimler-Benz and AMG.
Merely the appearance of the C63 AMG is impressive enough, with its wide, road-hugging stance. The new hood with its prominent power domes conceals the independently developed AMG 6.3-litre V8 engine, which develops an impressive 451-hp at 6800 rpm from a displacement of 6208 cubic centimeters. In this respect the C63 AMG comes very close to the 464 or so-horsepower delivered by the AMG C-Class racing touring car in the DTM series. This high output also benefits the power-to-weight ratio, which is a very favorable 3.6 kg/hp.
The maximum torque rating of 443 lb-ft. at 5000 rpm is unrivalled in this class, and the torque curve is equally impressive: from 2000 to 6250 rpm the driver always has more than 369 lb-ft. on tap – ideal for powerful acceleration in any engine speed range.
V8 with thoroughbred racing technology and a designer exhaust note
Introduced in 2005, the V8 engine is installed in numerous AMG high-performance cars and excels with its thoroughbred motor sports technology.
Perfect cylinder charging is guaranteed by the vertical arrangement of the intake and exhaust ducts, as well as the magnesium variable intake manifold with two integral throttle flaps. Other high-tech features include variable camshaft adjustment, four-valve technology with bucket-type tappets, a particularly rigid aluminum crankcase of closed-deck design and the low-friction TWAS coating on the cylinder contact surfaces.
Among the particular strengths of the AMG V8 engine are outstanding responsiveness and enormous pulling power – by virtue of its large displacement, it develops over 30 percent more torque than comparable engines in this performance class. Electronically controlled fuel delivery is another reason for the outstanding agility and responsiveness to movements of the accelerator. With its sporty AMG sound, which was designed-in during a series of sophisticated trials, this eight-cylinder powerpack from Affalterbach offers the unique excitement of a fast-revving, naturally aspirated engine – an audible and immediate experience whether at low, medium or high engine speeds.
In the interests of optimal reliability, the C63 AMG has a particularly efficient water cooling system and large engine and transmission oil coolers. Located behind the large apertures in the AMG front apron, these coolers ensure non-critical operating temperatures at all times – even under the extreme stress of the racetrack.
Like all AMG high-performance engines, the AMG 6.3-litre V8 is built in the AMG engine shop on the traditional “one man, one engine” principle. This means that one technician is responsible for hand-assembling a complete V8 engine to the highest quality standards – which is attested to by his signature on the AMG engine plate.
AMG SPEEDSHIFT PLUS 7G-TRONIC with blipping function
This high-performance eight-cylinder engine has the perfect partner in the form of the AMG SPEEDSHIFT PLUS 7G-TRONIC transmission. Equipped with AMG steering wheel shift paddles and three driving modes, the seven-speed automatic transmission allows a decidedly sporty or more comfort-oriented style of driving according to the driver’s preference. The different modes – “S” (Sport), ” C” (Comfort) and “M” (Manual) differ in their shift characteristics and speed: gearshifts in “S” mode are around 30 percent faster than in “C”, and no less than around 50 percent faster in “M” mode. Pressing a button is sufficient to activate the desired driving program.
The new C63 AMG is the very first AMG car to feature an automatic throttle-blipping function during downshifts. This not only enhances the driver’s emotional experience – the almost completely jolt-free downshifting process also reduces the load-change responses and has a particularly positive effect when braking before bends on the racetrack.
Redesigned Front Axle with 35-millimeter Wider Track
The C63 AMG owes its outstanding handling dynamics to the AMG sports suspension and an all-new three-link front axle design. The stiff configuration of the springs and gas-pressure shock absorbers ensures optimal road contact and low body movements when negotiating serpentine bends at speed. The new front axle has a 35-millimeter wider track – visible by the more widely flared wheel arches – and therefore ensures lower dynamic wheel loads when cornering. A number of features make for substantially more stability and precision in all driving situations: the redesigned wheel location at the front axle is 100 percent more rigid, leading to a considerable improvement in steering precision. Another benefit makes itself felt when braking, as the new wheel location ensures an immediate response even under high dynamic stresses.
In combination with completely newly configured elasto-kinematics, the new wheel location provides greatly improved lateral dynamics and allows the driver of the C63 AMG to benefit from significantly higher cornering speeds. A larger torsion bar stabilizer, new head bearings and dampers with rebound buffer springs further enhance this stability and precision. Steering feedback is also improved by the new kinematics. The speed-sensitive AMG sports steering has a ratio of 13.5:1, but feels more direct as a result of moving what is termed the instant center of motion at the front axle.
The multi-link independent rear suspension has also been thoroughly re-engineered, with a twelve-millimeter wider track and more camber leading to improved cornering performance. Reinforced drive shafts and drive joints increase fatigue strength and round off the improvements to the rear suspension of the C63 AMG.
The completely newly developed AMG sports suspension combines outstanding handling dynamics with the long-distance comfort to be expected of a Mercedes – which also means that the C63 AMG has the characteristic virtues of a genuine AMG.
18-inch AMG light-alloy wheels, 19-inch wheel/tire combination on request
The C63 AMG is appropriately fitted with new, 18-inch AMG light-alloy wheels in a five-spoke design. Painted in titanium grey, these high-sheen wheels in size 8.0 x 18 and 8.5 x 18 are shod with wide-base tires in size 235/40 R 18 (front) and 255/35 R 18 (rear). Even more dynamic handling is made possible by the optionally available 19-inch AMG light-alloy wheels in a multi-spoke design. The front wheels are in size 8.0 x 19 with 235/35 tires, with 9.0 x 19 wheels and 255/30 R 19 tires at the rear.
Generously dimensioned AMG high-performance braking system
Internally ventilated and perforated disc brakes all-round reside behind the spokes of the AMG wheels. The front brakes have size 360 x 36-millimeter discs with six-piston fixed calipers, while deceleration at the rear is by 330 x 26-millimeter discs with four-piston fixed calipers. The AMG high-performance braking system is characterized by great sensitivity and high fade-resistance.
3-stage ESP with Sport function as a new feature in the C63 AMG
The Electronic Stability Program ESP is specifically configured for the dynamic performance of the C63 AMG, which is the first AMG model to feature the 3-stage ESP with a Sport function. This system offers three different control settings, and is a logical further development of the AMG ESP philosophy. The ESP key in the center console enables the driver to choose between three modes – “ESP ON”,
“ESP SPORT” and “ESP OFF” – the currently active mode is shown in the central display of the AMG instrument cluster.
In “ESP ON” mode, the onset of handling instability leads to braking intervention at one or more of the wheels, accompanied by a reduction in engine torque. Briefly pressing the ESP key activates “ESP SPORT”. In this mode the braking intervention to counter oversteer or understeer, as well as the accompanying reduction in engine torque, allows a higher dynamic threshold and, for instance, corresponding drift angles – which means that the driver of the C63 AMG benefits from considerably more active driving pleasure. ESP is restored to its normal function as soon as the brake pedal is operated.
Prolonged pressure on the ESP key activates “ESP OFF”. There is no intervention to control the handling dynamics, and no reduction in engine torque – thus increasing driving enjoyment even further. “ESP OFF” should only be used by experienced drivers on dedicated racetracks. In this mode too, operating the brake pedal restores all the normal functions of ESP.
The system’s traction logic is active in all three ESP modes. If one of the drive wheels threatens to spin, specific brake pressure is applied to create the effect of a mechanical differential lock. This means that the engine power is optimally transferred to the road.
More distinctive exterior design than ever before
It is not only in technological but also in visual terms that the new C63 AMG is more distinctively different from the standard C-Class than ever before. The front end is dominated by the new bonnet with its two pronounced power domes, as well as the trademark AMG radiator grille with a central star and two louvers with chrome inserts. The honeycomb pattern of the grille is also reflected in the large air dams of the new, athletically contoured front apron which forms part of the AMG-specific bodystyling. The fog lamps with chrome surrounds are spaced well apart, acting together with the flared front wheel arches to accentuate the width of the car – with the striking transition from the front apron to the wings leaving a particularly strong impression. The side air vents in the front apron serve to expel the hot air from the oil coolers. If the C63 AMG is specified with the optional bi-xenon headlamps or the Intelligent Light System, the headlamps are also dark-tinted.
Eye-catching features when viewed from the side include the 18-inch AMG light-alloy wheels, the harmoniously integrated “6.3 AMG” lettering on the front wing and the AMG side skirts. At the rear the standard LED rear lights, the AMG rear apron with its black diffuser insert and three pronounced diffuser fins, as well as the AMG sports exhaust system with two chrome twin tailpipes, provide further visual highlights that are hallmarks of the brand. The AMG spoiler lip on the boot lid reduces lift and ensures greater handling stability at high speeds.
AMG interior with new sports seats and performance steering wheel
This decidedly sporty theme is continued in the interior of the C63 AMG, which now has special AMG sports seats with integral head restraints for the first time. The seats not only feature a new design with cross-piping and AMG lettering, but also an adaptive backrest with adjustments for the side bolsters and lumbar support. Perfect handling control is assured with the new AMG performance steering wheel in a three-spoke design, which has a rim diameter of 365 millimeters and a flattened lower section. The upper section is covered in perforated leather, and two silver AMG shift paddles enable the gears to be shifted manually.
AMG main menu with a wide variety of displays
The trademark AMG instrument cluster in a tubular design features newly styled dials, AMG-specific lettering and a new night-time design. Eye-catching details include the 320 km/h speedometer scale, AMG lettering, red needles and the “6.3 V8″ logo in the rev counter. The AMG main menu in the central display allows numerous settings, with “Warm Up”, “Set Up” and “RACE” modes activated via buttons on the AMG performance steering wheel. “Warm Up” displays the engine oil and coolant temperature, “Set Up” the current ESP mode and the transmission mode “S”, “C” or “M”. “RACE” mode makes the RACETIMER available, with which the driver is able to measure lap times on a racetrack.
Development and design of the C63 AMG
Creating a new car is a complex undertaking, and this certainly applies to the new Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG whose conceptual phase commenced in 2004. This began with the fundamental feasibility study known as packaging. The new C63 AMG was first constructed as a digital model, the engine, cooling system, fuel system, drive train and axles being “married” with the bodyshell to examine buildability. In spring 2005 the first 1:4-scale design models were produced on the basis of drawings and computer images, and in addition the first testing & development vehicles were already built on the basis of the preceding C 55 AMG. This made it possible to test major assemblies such as the drive train, brakes and axles.
The latest onboard measuring technology provided valuable data such as engine oil, coolant and brake disc temperatures – but other aspects of interest were lap times e.g. on the north loop of the Nürburgring, as well as measurable, precisely defined handling maneuvers to provide comparisons between different axle configurations. These tests were accompanied by extensive aerodynamic tests on the bodyshell of the C63 AMG, and it was only then that the final design was approved.
Following approval of the concept in the autumn of 2005, the first fully-fledged prototypes of the C63 AMG were built. At the same time the high-performance saloon was also produced as a digital prototype. Computer simulations made it possible for the “real” development prototypes to exhibit a very high level of maturity during the first rollout. These simulations included the most important vehicle functions, such as handling dynamics, the engine and drive train, bodyshell durability, suspension performance, passive safety, the engine’s thermal characteristics and performance/fuel consumption.
From Affalterbach to every climatic zone on earth
The standardized and highly sophisticated AMG development and test program for the C63 AMG began in summer 2005. Over the next couple of years around 20 vehicles were dispatched all over the world from Mercedes-AMG GmbH in Affalterbach, to be subjected to strenuous tests in every climatic zone.
Test, analyze and optimize – that is the creed of the specialists at AMG to achieve the objectives laid down in the book of specifications. Another decisive aspect was an ongoing dialogue between Design and Development, so that any necessary technical modifications were also implemented in design terms.
These tests are supplemented with extensive crash simulations and real crash tests, to provide the necessary evidence for country-specific certifications without which no registration would be possible. The end result is final vehicle approval – the green light for the launch of the C63 AMG.
I will take liberty to disagree with the glossy national write-ups and choose the Mercedes over the Bimmer – by a nose. The visceral experience of the C63 just overwhelms the quiet finesse of the M3. Give me meat and potatoes over sushi and salad any day of the week. Pricing for each begins at just under $56k with loaded models priced near 63 grand, and if you have to ask about fuel economy numbers, these are not the cars for you.