Audi R8 VS Mercedes-Benz C63
- Howling V10
- Amazing traction
- Looks more aggro now
- No high-tech safety
- Interior short on flexibility
- Didn't get to drive it on 'real' roads
- Warranty lags market
- No spare
- No towing
There is typically no need for introductions when it comes to the Audi R8. But the 2019 Audi R8 isn’t the one you’ve come to know - its been sharpened up in terms of both its appearance, and its performance.
This heavily facelifted version of the second-generation Audi R8 keeps its high-revving V10 engine, and turbochargers have been kept at bay, too. It can’t hold off the march of progress for much longer, though - it’s almost certain this will be the last V10-engined R8… thankfully it has only just launched, so it should be on sale for a few years yet.
I got a chance to drive the new Audi R8 V10 Performance model in Spain at the model’s international launch drive this week - but only on Circuito Ascari race track.
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Australians love Mercedes-AMG. Per capita we buy more of the three-pointed star's pumped-up hot rods than any other country on Earth.
But this car, the twin-turbo, V8-powered C 63, is the backbone of AMG's climb to prominence. And Mercedes-Benz invited us to its own backyard in Northern Germany to be among the first to sample a new-and-improved version of its heavy-hitting, compact muscle car. In Australia's case the higher performance S version only.
|Engine Type||4.0L turbo|
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This iteration could well be the final Audi R8 with a V10 engine, and what a note to go out on. Emissions laws and the ever-present push towards electrification are almost certain to see the next-generation R8 take a very different tack to this model. Lucky, then, that this is the best R8 yet.
I know the final score doesn’t necessarily reflect that - but that’s because it falls short on ‘regular’ car things. Even so, it’s an epic machine.
Would you have an Audi R8 over one of its rivals? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
The Mercedes-AMG C 63 S is brutally fast, and satisfyingly raucous. Everything a good muscle car should be. But add engineering sophistication, top-shelf quality and the best of Benz luxury and it becomes a super special package. In terms of the value/performance equation the sedan is the pick of the range, this new model adding more high-octane fuel to the already raging Mercedes-AMG fire.
Would you pick the updated C 63 over the new RS4? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
Wow, it was possible to make the Audi R8 even more attractive - the brand’s designers have gone and done it with this facelift, which sees a number of changes to the exterior styling that combine for a more aggressive, sharper look.
The ‘Singleframe’ grille now looks even more menacing, having been widened and flattened, and any trace of chrome has been removed. As the chief designer told us, a supercar is no place from chrome. There are three small slats above the grille, which hark back to the iconic Audi Sport quattro model of the 1980s.
Further, the front splitter is wider, the rear diffuser has been made even more prominent, and there are new oval exhaust pipe outlets - previously reserved for Audi RS models only.
My only ‘errr’ moment with the design is the mesh cooling section at the rear bumper, which appears a touch unfinished in combination with some colours, and it’s also very rectangular, meaning the new exhaust tips are at odds with it. But it all has a purpose, and applies to the regular R8 and the LMS racer.
There are three new exterior packages available, which change elements such as the front splitter, door sill trims (side skirts) and diffuser. On the base car, there’s a high-gloss black look; on the V10 Performance there’s a matte titanium look to these bits. Optionally, there’s a high-gloss carbon package.
Further, customers can get the badges and Audi rings painted in gloss black, while body paint colours now include 'Kemora grey' and 'Ascari blue'. There’ll be 19-inch and 20-inch wheels offered, depending on the model.
Inside, there’s been a bit less of a noticeable change. Check out the interior photos to see for yourself.
Not much has changed in terms of the exterior design aside from a new nose treatment incorporating the iconic Panamericana grille design with vertical chrome slats, now spreading across the AMG range, and inspired by the 1952 Panamericana road race-winning 300SL.
The front splitter receives an 'A wing' treatment, and this transverse fin has been added to the outer air inlets with the intention of improving air flow and emphasising the car's width. Plus, the diffuser has been resculpted and the twin tailpipes are now finished in high-gloss chrome.
There are new trim materials inside, including open-pore wood finishes, or a more carbon rich environment if you prefer. And an even grippier sports steering wheel with built-in 'Touch Control' buttons, plus, a 12.3-inch-digital instrument display, and 10.25-inch media screen.
Okay, so Audi claims “the driver sits in the new R8 like in a race car”.
Having been a passenger in the Audi R8 GT3 car the brand had on show, I can tell you that’s not entirely true - because while you do sit about 12 centimetres higher than that ground-hugging beast, the regulation R8 model is superbly comfortable.
What the brand is getting at, though, is that the focus of all the interior design is to serve the driver. As such, there’s no central media screen - instead, there’s a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster (Audi ‘virtual cockpit’) which is where the driver takes charge using steering wheel controls.
The system is crisp to look at, but it can be a little hard to get used to the controls, especially for sat nav inputs and so on. And that’s even with the central MMI rotary dial with touch pad.
But the other controls are great - I love the air-conditioning knobs, the gear selector and the switchgear, which all has a technical and beautiful finish to it. The steering wheel is a delight to hold, and the push-button starter is a real eye-catcher in red.
The seats in the cars we tested were superbly supportive and very comfortable, but the lack of adjustment of the fixed buckets means you might find yourself a bit too upright (if you get to spend more time in the car than we did).
And even though it’s a supercar, the R8 offers a level of practicality. Sure, the door pockets are virtually useless and there are no properly usable cupholders, but that gives you an idea to the intent of the car. There are, however, storage spots behind both of the seats, and there’s a centre storage area in front of the shifter and in the armrest.
And while the R8 has a mid-mounted engine, there’s still a boot: the R8 coupe’s rear cargo bay offers enough room for a suitcase or two soft smaller bags for a weekend away, with 226 litres of cargo capacity - according to Audi, that’s enough for a golf bag. There’s a secondary storage area under the bonnet, which adds an extra 112L of space. Don’t buy the Spyder if practicality is important to you, as it has even less storage space.
The AMG C 63, offered in sedan, wagon, coupe and cabriolet variants, is as practical as any garden-variety Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
All offer plenty of breathing space up front, with 12 volt and USB outlets supplied, as well as an 'aux in' in audio input.
There are two cupholders in the centre console, decent door bins with space for bottles, a storage box between the seats and a sizeable glove box.
The sedan and wagon seat five, with ample head and legroom for this 183cm tester, while the coupe and cabriolet seat four in a 2+2 configuration. Rear room in the latter pair is squeezy for grown-ups, although headroom in the cabrio is especially generous with the roof down.
All variants feature individual ventilation control for those in the back, which is a big plus, and as you'd expect cargo space varies wildly according to body style.
In ascending order, the cabrio's boot volume is 285 litres with top folded, and 360 litres with it up; enough for a cheeky weekend away for two. The coupe sits at 355 litres, the sedan offers 435, and the wagon, complete with 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat, offers up 460 litres rear seat up, and 1480 with it down.
The wagon also features a netted storage space behind the passenger side wheel tub, four cargo tie-down points, an auto load cover, cargo barrier net, 12-volt outlet and usefully bright lighting.
Towing is a no-go zone for the C 63 S, so if you need to haul a boat or camper, best to look elsewhere. And all models roll on run-flat tyres so don't bother searching for a spare of any description.
Price and features
It’s expected Audi Australia will again offer the R8 in two different specs when it launches in Australia around the fourth quarter of 2019.
That means a base model (if you can call it that) V10 variant, and a higher-grade V10 Performance grade with more power and torque. The latter is expected to be the bulk seller - the current V10 Plus model accounts for some 90 per cent of R8 sales. Maybe they’ll drop the base car - time will tell.
It’s too early to have a stab at pricing and specifications, because nothing has been confirmed as yet and we’d be on Audi keeping prices relatively stable or maybe bumping them up - hey, you’re getting more power for your money, after all!
But you can bank on goodies like LED headlights, auto high-beam lights, leather seat trim, DAB+ digital radio, sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 13-speaker sound system, auto headlights and wipers, push-button start and keyless entry and a fair bit more.
The V10 Performance model we drove had 20x8.5-inch front wheels and 20x11-inch rear wheels, with super grippy Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres.
For a guide, the current start price for the V10 is $366,340 plus on-road costs, while the V10 Plus (which will be renamed V10 Performance) currently lists at $402,430 before on-roads. Those prices are for the coupe - the Spyder convertible adds roughly $20,000 on both grades.
Considering some of the competitors, it is a little pricey - although it’s the cheapest way into V10 supercar ownership.
So, what are its rivals? Lamborghini has the Huracan (essentially an R8 twin - priced from $378,900 in RWD, or $428,000 for the AWD model), or you could take a look at a McLaren 570S ($395,000), Mercedes-AMG has the GT (from $261,130) and there are about 20 versions of the Porsche 911 you might consider (from $220,500). If the Spyder is more your go, I’d take a look at the Ferrari Portofino ($398,888), too.
Pricing is yet to be confirmed for the upgraded C 63 S, but expect cost-of-entry to stretch from around $160k (sedan) to somewhere just north of $180k (cabriolet) when it arrives in Australia at the end of August.
For that money, as well as all the safety and dynamic performance tech detailed below, you can expect dual-zone climate control air, ambient interior lighting, 19-inch alloys, active cruise, alloy-faced pedals, electrically-adjustable and heated front seats, heated exterior mirrors, nappa leather trim, keyless entry and start, a sunroof, 13-speaker audio with digital radio and TV, satellite navigation, as well as the 12.3-inch-digital instrument display, and 10.25-inch media screen.
Engine & trans
The new R8 retains the same 5.2-litre V10 (FSI) naturally-aspirated engine, but Audi’s engineers have wrung its neck to squeeze more power and torque out of it.
There are two tunes available - the regular version, which has 419kW of power (up from 397kW), and 560Nm of torque (up from 540Nm). It only comes with a seven-speed 'S tronic' dual-clutch automatic transmission, and comes with quattro all-wheel drive.
The claimed 0-100km/h time is just 3.4 seconds for the coupe and 3.5sec for the Spyder convertible. It tops out at 324km/h, or 322/km/h in the convertible.
The higher-grade version is by far the most potent R8 yet, with 456kW of power (up from 449kW) and 580Nm of torque (was 560Nm). Again, S tronic and quattro, and this time around with a 0-100km/h acceleration claim of 3.1sec for the coupe (3.2sec convertible). Top speed is 331km/h or 329km/h, depending on body type.
The C 63 S is powered by the all-alloy, direct-injection, 4.0-litre (M177) twin-turbo V8, produced in line with AMG's 'One Man. One Engine' hand-build philosophy (surely there are women interested in bolting engines together, too).
Maximum torque (700Nm) is available from 2500rpm all the way to 5000, with peak power (375kW) taking over at 5500rpm and remaining at full force until 6250.
Drive goes to the rear wheels via the 'AMG Speedshift MCT 9G' auto transmission, replacing the previous seven-speed unit. It features a wet start-off clutch in place of a torque converter, for quicker shift response.
An electronically-controlled limited slip diff, working in concert with the standard torque vectoring system. ensures drive is going to the wheel that can make best use of it.
Don’t expect to see the official claimed fuel consumption figure on a regular basis. The number is 12.3 litres per 100 kilometres for the most potent coupe version, while the lower-power version uses a claimed 11.4L/100km.
The engine has cylinder deactivation for less intense situations, and there’s engine stop-start, too.
It uses 98RON premium unleaded fuel, and has an 83 litre fuel tank capacity.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (European NEDC) cycle (with CO2 emissions in brackets) ranges from 10.4L/100km (236g/km) for the cabrio, 10.1L/100km (230g/km) for the coupe, 10.0L/100km (229g/km) for the wagon, and 9.9L/100km (227g/km) for the sedan. A start-stop system is standard.
Interestingly those numbers are slightly higher than the Australian ADR 81/02 figures quoted for the out-going seven-speed version of the car, so we'll wait and see how that pans out when this updated version lands here at the end of August.
Not surprisingly, the C 63 S drinks 98 RON premium octane unleaded only, and you'll need 66 litres of it to fill the tank (on all models).
I can’t say what it’s like on public roads, but my stint on a shortened track at Circuito Ascari near Ronda in Spain left me grinning ear to ear.
And so it should, with the immense performance of the V10 engine - tested on track in the higher output R8 Performance spec with the full 456kW and 580Nm complement of grunt numbers.
Driving the R8 reminded me of that one time in under 11s rugby league when a much smaller defender managed to lift me up and dump be on the ground - an impressive effort, because I was heavy enough to be running around in under 15s. At that time, it took a second for me to realise what had happened, and was enough to leave me a bit short of breath.
The same sensation came to mind as I loaded up the throttle and threw myself at the horizon from the pit exit. Under a heavy right foot, the world around me started to blur and the first corner of the track suddenly approached after the crest. I had to try and remember what the lead car had shown me in the sighting laps prior, where to turn, how hard to get on the gas.
But I was distracted by the mind-bending physics I was experiencing, not to mention the theatre of the R8. The sound really is hard to beat - the howl of a high-revving V10, unmuffled by turbochargers, is something to behold when it’s enveloping you, and the fact the noise emanates from behind your ears almost makes you want to push it even harder.
1 – 6 – 5 – 10 – 2 – 7 – 3 – 8 – 4 – 9. That’s the firing sequence of the V10. Just thought you might like to know.
The gearshifts cut through the noise with prodigious sharpness, and when I chose the 'Performance' drive mode (which firmed everything up, enabled even more manic acceleration and disabled traction control) the shifts were brutal, often resulting in a shockwave through the car. It was some seriously good feedback for me as the driver, though it may not bode well for longevity…
There was tremendous traction from the quattro all-wheel drive system from a standstill, and across a long, banked corner on the track I felt super confident, pushing harder than I know I would have dared in a rear-drive car.
I managed to get a steer in both an R8 with the regular steering system and a model with the brand’s ‘dynamic’ steering set-up. Both have been retuned to be “more direct and precise throughout the entire speed range”.
I preferred the dynamic steering set-up which can vary the steering ratio based on the speed, and is “very direct” according to Audi - and even more so when Performance mode is engaged.
I found it to be super predictable at lower cornering speeds, and therefore more manageable to an amateur like me. One of Audi’s test drivers told me that he prefers the normal steering set-up, because at ‘really big speed’ it’s easier to predict.
The highest speed I saw was just a tickle over 200km/h, and I understood his take on it. Maybe normal steering for high-speed tracks, then? Or I just need to learn to drive faster…? Hey, no-one wants to be the guy who bins the $400k supercar on the very first rotation of about thirty over a two-week run of international journalists visiting to sample the newest, bestest and most expensivest Audi has to offer.
The models we drove were all fitted with the optional carbon ceramic braking package, which allowed the stoppers to resist fade for a lot longer - ideal for extended track time sessions, and they certainly stood up to my reliance on them on my few short stints on the track. They came in especially handy during a (very cool) night session where we were expected to remember the track layout about seven hours after our first outing.
It would have been great to drive it on real roads, because apparently that’s where the dynamic steering is most impressive.
We had the opportunity to drive the C 63 S over the brilliant B-roads around the beautiful Teutoburg Forest region, roughly 100km south-west of Hanover, and hot lap one of the best private test facilities in the world.
As a first step we might have experimented with the launch control feature, and can validate the factory claim that acceleration from 0-100km/h tap-dances around the magic four second mark, with the quickest Coupe only a tenth or two ahead of the rest.
Featuring a wet start-off clutch in place of a torque converter, for even quicker gearshift response, the new nine-speed auto keeps things on the boil. Shifts in manual mode are positive and ridiculously fast.
Maximum velocity, available on Germany's sweet, sweet high-speed autobahns, is pushing up towards 300km/h. And Merc-AMG claims that's electronically limited!
Engine noise is typically thunderous thanks in part to a variable flap in the exhaust, which Merc says can vary the rumble from “discreet” to “robust”. Make that very robust.
And al la BMW, Audi, and Porsche, AMG has nestled this V8's turbos in the hot vee between the cylinder banks to shorten the distance between the inlet and outlet side of the engine and the turbos. As a result, throttle response is instantaneous and mid-range thrust monumental.
Despite standard 19-inch rims, ride comfort is excellent. Yes, Germany is a ludicrously prosperous and organised country; even its backroads are velvet smooth. But the C 63 S's dynamic engine mounts help minimise drivetrain vibration, with the four-link front, and multi-link rear suspension working in concert with the active damping system to further smooth out the journey.
After some backroad blasting and relaxed rural cruising it was time to hit the track, but not just any track. Opened in 2013, the Bilster Berg Drive Resort is a 4.2km private race track designed by F1's go-to circuit architect, Hermann Thilke with support from none other than the man himself, Walter Rohrl.
Covering 46 hectares it's like a mini Mount Panorama, swerving, diving and climbing through 19 corners, the most challenging of which is named the “curve of courage”. Gulp.
Trailing a tame racing driver in a lead AMG GTR we pushed up to the car's limit and can confirm it's superbly balanced.
The speed-sensitive electromechanical steering is accurate with great feel, and thanks to the active damping, body control is beautifully buttoned down.
The 'AMG Dynamics' system incorporates settings for engine response, suspension, and ESP, which overlay pre-set driver preferences across six drive programs.
With the system wound up, the fat Michel Super Sport rubber (slightly wider on the coupe and cabrio) gripping hard and the limited slip diff (now electronically-controlled) doing its thing, power down is super impressive.
You can actually dial traction control intervention up or down via a rotary control on the steering wheel, the car remaining stable, communicative and responsive at stupid speeds no matter what the setting.
New design 'Performance' seats are as grippy as they are comfortable, and the brakes are fantastic, with 390mm vented rotors at the front clamped by six-piston calipers. Even the rear discs are ventilated 360mm dinner plates. Under extreme pressure on the track they showed no sign of stress.
AMG specific instrument layouts allow a vast array of functions and data to be dialled up, including engine and systems status, G-force, and race timing.
An optional 'AMG Track Pace' package even adds race circuit graphics down to individual sectors, specific bends, braking points, and delta speeds.
This car is a blast to drive, delivering the acceleration and dynamic refinement of supercars costing twice as much.
The Audi R8 hasn’t been crash-tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP, but Audi claims the car’s spaceframe chassis offers “high crash safety”.
You get a reversing camera and parking sensors (optional in Europe, expected to be standard in Australia) plus the R8 comes with six airbags, including dual front, front side and curtain coverage. Spyder models miss out on curtain airbags.
Top spec models are expected to get the excellent laser headlights (auto high-beam light up to 600 metres throw distance), and all models come with LED headlights.
You can also expect, auto LED headlights with active high beam control, active cruise, rain-sensing wipers, a colour head-up display, a tyre pressure monitoring system, 'Traffic Sign Assist', 'Lane Change Warning', and 'Lane Departure Warning'.
Safety at slower speeds is covered by 'Park Assist', a surround camera system, and parking distance control front and rear.
But if all that isn't enough to avoid a collision, all body styles, except the cabriolet, feature front head and side airbags, as well as full-length curtains, and a driver's knee airbag. There's even a well-stocked first aid kit on board.
Obviously, curtain airbags aren't an option on the cabrio, but torso bags for rear seat passenger and pop-up hoops that deploy in the event of a roll-over are a solid plan-B.
The current Mercedes-Benz C-Class received a maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was assessed in 2014, with the cabriolet also ranked five stars when it was tested in 2017.
There is no capped price service plan for the R8, and no pre-purchase plan like you can get on the rest of the ‘regular’ Audi range.
Mercedes-Benz offers a three-year/unlimited km warranty, with 24-hour roadside assist included for the duration. Not exactly leading edge when you think about Kia at seven years/unlimited km and Tesla's eight year/160,000km cover.
Scheduled maintenance for the C 63 S is set at 12 months/20,000km, and service plans are offered at silver and platinum levels for up to five years/100,000km.
The first three fixed price services for the current C 63 S sit at $676 (year one), $1352 (year two), and $1352 (year three).