BMW Alpina B4 VS Mercedes-Benz C63
BMW Alpina B4
- Ride and handling
- Brilliant engine
- The price
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Some dodgy styling features
- Amazing power
- Addictive sound
- Impressive to drive in most situations
- Price is high
- Still not 100 per cent on the Coupe’s looks
- No applicable ANCAP score
BMW Alpina B4
If you're looking for a sleek, two-door coupe with a sparkling chassis, rear-wheel drive and a charismatic turbo straight-six, BMW has you covered with about eight choices. That should be that, then. But wait. There's more.
Since 1965, Alpina - the name of a resurrected a typewriter company - has collaborated closely with BMW to produce distinct, high performance Alpina-badged cars. It actually started with a Weber dual-carburettor unofficial conversion for the BMW 1500 in 1962 and over the years built into a racing operation winning championships and races like the Spa 24 Hours.
Alpina returned to Australian shores in 2017 after a long hiatus with a new range including the BMW 4 Series based B4. Not long after, BMW updated the 4 in what it calls LCI (Lifecycle Impulse), so Alpina followed suit with a price drop, new gear and called it the B4 S.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
If you know the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S, you know it’s a hardcore V8 thumper with little in the way of bashfulness. It’s a brawler. A beast.
Now there’s an even more eye-catching AMG C 63 S Coupe, which we’re testing here. It’s the Aero Edition - a collector’s version of the current-generation C 63 S Coupe with a bit more visual bling that also helps it stick to the road better.
It is a local area special edition, with only 63 examples to be sold across Australia and New Zealand. And if the rumours are true, the next-generation will see the V8 engine in danger of being axed in favour of a hybrid, high-performance four-cylinder version. Say it ain’t so!
Well, if the CarsGuide crystal ball turns out to be right, maybe one of these C 63 S Aero Editions is worth getting in your garage quick-smart. Or is it? Let’s go through the criteria and see how it stacks up.
|Engine Type||4.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
BMW Alpina B47.4/10
You could almost call the B4 S the anti-M4. It's still fast and practical but from a completely different perspective. It's much more a grand tourer than the M4 and even with the Akrapovic exhaust (usually a byword for joyous, anti-social racket), subtle.
For some, the price won't matter because the Alpina delivers what they want - M4-like straight line performance without the histrionics or the uncompromising chassis. And there's also a bit of that perverse exclusivity of the styling that you won't get anywhere else.
Is Peter right? Is it the anti-M4? Or just a tarted up 4 with a bit of extra grunt?
The Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Aero Edition is an absolute beast of a car, but it comes at a pretty hefty price. Yes you get a lot of performance, and the fact there are only 63 examples being made for Australia and New Zealand could be enough to get you to sign on the line. For me, though, if I was after a C 63, it’d have to be a wagon. It doesn’t need an Aero pack to look better.
BMW Alpina B47/10
Alpina has always had a particular aesthetic that could uncharitably be termed as mid-'80s West German - all set square angles and body graphics. Think David Hasselhoff's Berlin Wall look. The company has never really deviated from adding squared-off body bits to the various BMWs it has rebadged under its long-running agreement.
For the B4S, Alpina adds the signature billion-spoke alloy wheels (only a slight exaggeration), a new front splitter complete with Alpina lettering, a weirdly proportioned boot lid lip spoiler and - not even joking - pinstripes. Like I said, mid-'80s West German. You can still recognise the sleek 4 Series Coupe but perhaps the worst of it is the super-sized, wonky-looking ALPINA B4S on the boot.
Inside is rather more restrained apart from the ill-fitting Alpina plaque under the climate control. Again, it's all 4 Series in here, with the lovely Merino leather liberally applied across the cabin. Less lovely is the wood on the door pulls and console but the door cards have an oddly appealing woven leather which looks and feels good.
Sadly the standard 4 Series steering wheel is along for the ride. There's nothing wrong with it - although the Alpina logo does look out of place - but if I were a product planner, I'd beg for the lovelier M wheel.
I’ve never been the biggest fan of the current C-Class Coupe’s styling. To me, it has always looked a little droopy, a little melted at the back.
I have to say, the Aero Edition has changed my opinion somewhat, as the new graphic elements help lift it up a bit, visually raising its rear up like a stretching cat, tail in the air. I’m still not 100 per cent on it, but to my eye it’s better.
The carbon-fibre trim elements that have been added to the exterior certainly add some menace to the look, too, and I simply can’t help but constantly notice out of the corner of my eye the AMG pressing in the staggered, dished rims. At a glimpse, from a distance, it looks like rim damage, but thankfully it’s not!
The staggered set-up does really add some width and mongrel to the look, as if it needed more, with its open maw lower bumper air dam, and the signature 'Panamericana' grille treatment which looks like an evil character out of a movie. If you know the one I’m talking about, let me know in the comments.
As much as the look matters when it’s parked in your driveway, it’s the cabin that arguably matters more, right? That’s where you spend your time, after all. Check out the interior images to see if you think it lives up to the exterior look.
BMW Alpina B46/10
If you're in the front, you're in luck - it's a comfortable place to be, with plenty of leg and headroom. Down back isn't terrible despite the coupe roofline. The two seats are nicely shaped for maximum comfort and separated by an odd plastic tray. The fold-down armrest has two cupholders.
Front seat passengers score a pair of cupholders (bring the total to four for the car) and the long doors will hold a bottle each.
The boot swallows a reasonable 445 litres, which isn't at all bad.
No two-door coupe is going to offer you the space and comfort of a sedan or wagon, that’s just a fact. But that only matters if you plan to actually use the rear seats. If you don’t, then the Coupe version of the C 63 S might be perfect for you.
Even so, I managed to (only just) squeeze myself between the seat and the door opening to slide into the rear row. This won’t be easily achieved by all attempters, especially on the driver’s side.
Let’s just say I probably looked like I was doing something very weird to the driver’s seat as I spider-manned my way in.
The rear space is tight for someone my height (182cm/6’0”) behind their own driving position, with knees hard-up against the seat in front and not much headroom (my noggin’ was brushing the ceiling) or toe space (size 12s don’t fit so well) to speak of.
It’s certainly a selfish car. Or maybe it’d be fine for smaller kids. There are two spaces in the back, both with ISOFIX child seat anchors and top-tether points.
But there is storage in the back - cupholders and storage caddies either side of the seats, though the storage situation improves in the front zone, with bottle holders in the doors, cupholders between the seats, loose item storage under the media screen and a covered centre armrest bin, too.
The front cabin is a special looking place, with carbon-fibre abounding across the dash and nice trim on the doors. The AMG steering wheel is a sight to behold - it’s a flat-bottomed unit with carbon-fibre and Dinamica (that’s Benz talk for microsuede) trim: perfect for sapping sweat as you manhandle the C63 through the bends.
The seats are AMG Performance sports units up front, and the trim used is reserved for this model specifically: Nappa leather with yellow stripes. There are yellow details elsewhere, including on the rear seats, centre console and dash, and it certainly adds some visual excitement.
Media is controlled by a 10.25-inch display and Mercedes-Benz’s touchpad control system, but there is no touchscreen - rendering the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology somewhat tedious.
I’ve always had a gripe with screens that don’t allow touch but feature the tech that’s designed to transfer your phone’s screen to the media unit, and I can tell you the longer you spend twiddling the dial to get where you want to go, the more annoying it becomes.
The Burmester sound system has 13 speakers and is rather good, but I prefer the sound from the standard fit variable sports exhaust. So maybe that quibble with CarPlay isn’t that big a deal.
And if you just want to charge your phone, and there’s a second USB port up front, as well. Note: in non-Aero Edition C 63 models without the carbon-fibre interior pack, you also get Qi wireless phone charging, but it’s deleted from this variant and any model with the carbon pack.
The driver has a 12.3-inch digital info display to show where you are and what the car is up to, and there’s a head-up display as well. Yep, there’s standard sat nav with live traffic updates (and even live fuel price updates) - it’s just a shame the maps still look early 2000s-spec in 2D layout.
Cargo space is okay. The claimed cargo capacity or boot volume is 355 litres (VDA) with the rear seats in place. That’s small for a coupe of this size, and the shape of the boot (with a hump behind the rear seat) isn’t great as things do move around quite a bit.
But, thankfully, Mercedes has included its clever foldable storage box system under the boot floor - it goes where you might usually expect a spare wheel, but there isn’t one in this car. Instead you get Mercedes’ 'Tirefit' repair kit with an electric pump.
Price and features
BMW Alpina B47/10
If you thought BMW don't mess about when pricing up its cars, you best strap yourself in. The 440i-based B4S starts at a solid $149,900. That's $48,000 more than the 440i and significantly more than an M4 Pure. But there's plenty of gear on offer and some genuine, bespoke Alpina additions.
Standard are 20-inch signature Alpina alloys, 16-speaker harmon kardon-branded stereo with DAB, super-soft Merino leather everywhere, dual-zone climate control, around-view cameras, reversing camera, sat nav, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, active cruise control, heated and electric front seats, head-up display, auto headlights and active LED headlights, LED taillights and electric sunroof.
The stereo and sat nav are run by BMW's iDrive. It's a cracker of a system and almost gets away without Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The absence of such simple pleasures at this price point is a bit lame, but here we are.
Look, I’m not likely to ever be in the position to say that a car that costs $188,600 plus on-road costs is “good value”, but to be honest, if you’re in that position, you’ll be getting plenty of car for your cash.
The Carbon Edition of the C 63 S Coupe adds $17,200 over the standard version of the high-performance two-door, but it adds a bunch of extras to help justify its price. A car like this is always going to be seen by some as a profligate purchase, right? You need to be able to justify spending an extra MG3’s worth of cash on this Edition.
The noticeable exterior bits include an AMG Performance rear spoiler, a model specific front lip, rear diffuser, and side facings for the rear apron air vents. Carbon-fibre is used in the front apron A-wing, the side sill inserts, rear diffuser insert, rear spoiler and the side mirror casings.
There’s more carbon-fibre inside the cabin, which we’ll cover off in the interior section. Other additions over the standard C 63 S Coupe include ceramic composite front brakes (402mm six-piston) and 360mm single-piston rear brakes, and there are “ultra-lightweight” AMG forged 'Matt Black' alloy wheels with 19-inch rims at the front and 20s at the rear.
And in nice news, the car you see here has no optional extras fitted at all. The colour is 'Iridium Silver', one of only two options for this limited run model (the other available hue is Polar White, and both come at no extra cost).
Standard inclusions comprise leather interior trim, heated and electric adjustable front seats, dual-zone climate control, a 10.25-inch media screen with sat nav and smartphone mirroring, DAB radio, 13-speaker Burmester sound system, 12.3-inch digital driver info display, head-up display (HUD), ambient lighting, and performance items like active dynamic engine mounts, an adaptive AMG performance exhaust, a rear differential lock, and adaptive sports suspension.
Plus there’s a full-spec safety offering which we’ll cover in the section below.
Thinking about what cars compete with this one? There’s the Audi RS 5 Coupe (from $150,900), the Lexus RC F (from $136,636), and the BMW M4 Competition (from $167,829). So the C 63 S - which is already expensive comparatively - looks positively pricey in Aero Edition spec.
Engine & trans
BMW Alpina B49/10
A lot of your extra money turns up under the bonnet. These days the 440i packs BMW's slick B58 turbo straight six and the B4S does likewise. The boys from Buchloe in Bavaria (there are certain to be women there, too, I just liked the alliteration) added a pair of Alpina-spec turbos to generate a whopping 324kW and, more importantly, 660Nm. Alpina says 600Nm (the max torque figure of the brilliant M4 CS) is available from 2000-5000rpm, while the full 660Nm is available from 3000 to 4500rpm.
The M4 Pure has 317kW and 550Nm from the S55 straight-six. Just so you know.
Like the 440i but unlike the M4, the B4S employs the dependably brilliant eight-speed ZF automatic found throughout the BMW range.
Open the shapely bonnet of the C 63 S and you’ll find a hand-assembled horsepower-monster engine with a printed name plaque to prove it.
The 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 produces 375kW of power at 6250rpm, and 700Nm of torque from 2000-4500rpm. It runs a standard-fit nine-speed 'Speedshift MCT' (multi-clutch transmission) automatic, and it’s rear-wheel drive. And yes, that means it likes to boogie.
The claimed 0-100km/h time is just 3.9 seconds, and top speed is apparently pegged at 250km/h. Yeesh.
The name on the “Handcrafted by” plaque on this particular engine? Hat tip to you, Julian Rembold. This is quite a piece of work.
High numbers are what AMGs are about. Sadly that’s the case not only for performance outputs but also fuel consumption.
The official combined cycle fuel use claim for the C 63 S Coupe is 10.3 litres per 100 kilometres, and you need to fill it with 98RON premium unleaded fuel, too.
On test? Well, across a mix of different driving - urban, highway, back road and spirited stints - I saw an 'at the pump' return of 12.2L/100km, while the digital readout stated 12.0L/100km.
Given the performance on offer, and how much I took advantage of it during my week with the car, that’s not bad…
Fuel tank capacity is 66 litres. So go easy if you know there won’t be a fuel stop for a while.
BMW Alpina B49/10
One of the key differences between the B4 and M4 is the ride. While the M4 can crash over bumps and generally be a little hard to live with, the crew in Buchloe have gone after a much more plush ride. And in that they have succeeded because the B4 S is a mighty fine cruiser. Bumps are dismissed with a haughty disdain, even Sport + silliness doesn't completely write-off ride quality.
Very impressive too, is the steering. While still not at Lotus Elise levels of feel (few cars are), the Alpina tweaks connect the your palms to the road with more clarity than what you'll find in the 440i or M4. Where the M4 particularly adds too much weight, the 440i is a bit more circumspect in that regard.
And then we come to the engine. The B58 six is a belter, better even than the N55 that preceded it. It's still a 3.0-litre straight six but is part of BMW's modular engine family that starts with a 1.5-litre triple in the Mini and 1 Series. The Alpina-spec turbos are noisier, the Akrapovic exhaust lighter and also noisier. It doesn't have the all-out crackle and pop of an Audi or Merc (perish the thought), but when you're on it, the B4 means business. The 660Nm of torque, available over a wide rev range, delivers a steel fist wrapped in a velvet glove and bubble wrap - the speed builds rapidly but smoothly.
The approach to the chassis tune seems to be based on the driving talents of mere mortals on normal roads, which is kind of like the 440i. It's terrific fun to drive hard but it's very forgiving and patient. The great thing about it is that you wouldn't think twice about jumping in it for the long haul, so comfortable and quiet is the cabin. The M4 will leave it for dead on a winding road, but that's perfectly fine.
One irritant is the replacement of the admittedly cheap BMW gearshift paddles with weirdly non-tactile buttons. They're not particularly easy to use and, probably worse for a sporty car, unsatisfying. It's an odd detail with which to go off the reservation. Cheeringly, the eight-speed ZF is its usual perfect self, so you don't have to worry too much about manual mode or go old school and use the shifter.
Just one word sprang to my mind when it comes to accurately describing the performance on offer from this car. The word is ‘brutal’.
Smash the accelerator and the power and torque on offer is enough to make your eyes feel like they’re not doing the right thing anymore. You get pushed back in your seat with a surge, and your ears are also rewarded with one of the best soundtracks in the automotive world.
The engine builds pace with enormous intent, and the sound that comes from under the bonnet and out the back through the exhausts is addictive.
Yes, there is an active exhaust button which you have to press to make sure that you hear all that noise if you’re running around in 'Comfort' mode, and during my time with the car it was active the whole time.
I had some questions from neighbours over the week that I had this car about whether it was actually nice to live with on a day-to-day basis. And the answer is yes, if you put it in comfort mode it’s surprisingly amenable.
The ride is really well sorted at pace despite having a bit of that trademark low-speed wobble that seems to afflict Mercedes products from A-Class through to the GLE SUV. But it wasn’t bad enough to really bother me, as most of my time was on highways and backroads.
The steering is direct and accurate. The only thing you need to be aware of is that you will lose traction at the rear axle when you put your foot down hard. And for the enthusiast that’s exactly what you want.
I know I want to feel the thing squirm under throttle. It’s a rear-drive V8 coupe, after all. You want to feel like you’re a vein in its bicep muscle; you know, the one you see in a weightlifter’s arms – the one that wiggles around a lot. You want to have that. Right?
On the performance front it is exceptional. Twist the little dial on the wheel to 'Sport' or 'Sport+' (I didn’t sample 'Race' mode as I wasn’t at a racetrack), and everything feels like it’s had a protein shake.
Even so, in that mode it steers brilliantly, there's a nice feel through the wheel, and the ride, while stiff, controls the body brilliantly when you change directions.
The transmission is very good, too. In Comfort mode it can take just a second or two at first to become accustomed to the idea that you want to drive aggressively.
But in Sport mode, or when you select the manual transmission mode using the trigger button on the steering wheel, you will certainly get the most out of the engine. That’s what I did when I was driving it in a ‘spirited’ manner.
If you are just after that high-end Coupe cruiser experience, it’s a relatively quiet car (provided the surface below isn’t the coarsest of coarse-chip bitumen), with enough luxuriousness to make it feel premium as well as sporty. That’s an important thing to consider, especially at this price point.
BMW Alpina B48/10
There is no applicable ANCAP crash test rating for the Mercedes C-Class Coupe, nor is there one for the C 63 specification. But when it was tested back 2014, the sedan scored five stars - as you’d expect.
It is comprehensively equipped in terms of safety technology, including auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection (from 7.0km/h to 70km/h) and it’s active for cars from 7.0km/h to 250km/h.
Plus there’s lane departure warning and active lane keeping assistance (from 60km/h to 200km/h), blind spot monitoring with 'Active Blind Spot Assist' that will stop you from veering into oncoming traffic, front and rear cross traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control (Distronic) with traffic jam assist.
The C 63 also features 'Route Based Speed Adaptation', which can adjust your speed based on where the car thinks you are on the map. Just note - if you’re driving through new tunnels that haven’t been flashed to your car’s nav (as happened to me in Sydney during my testing week) - then you could find the car dramatically braking for surface-level intersections. You can switch the system off, thankfully.
There are nine airbags fitted, and while you mightn’t use the rear seats much there are ISOFIX and top tether points for both positions (yes, only two).
Mercedes-Benz is among the minority of luxury brands now offering a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty plan - most still have three-year cover. So that’s a tick.
And the service intervals are pegged at 12 months/20,000km. Another tick.
Plus you can either pre-pay your service plan in three-year ($3800), four-year ($6000) or five-year ($6550) plans - roll it into the finance package, and it won’t hurt quite as much.
According to Mercedes, the three-year coverage option makes for a $900 discount over pay-as-you-go servicing.
Roadside assistance covers the five-year new car warranty period, too. So Mercedes seemingly takes good care of its customers. But if you have any concerns or questions over reliability, problems, issues or complaints about the C 63, check out our AMG C 63 problems page.