BMW M3 VS Mercedes-Benz E63
- Super-sweet engine
- Steering and suspension fantastic
- Looks mean in the metal
- Key safety stuff missing
- Expensive, and worse when you start ticking options
- Desert-levels sparse in the backseat
- Incredible performance, easily accessed
- Amazing duality between performance and luxury
- Relatively subtle looks for battling tall-poppy haters
- No wagon version for Australia
If you’ve got a thirst for power that would make Vladimir Putin seem benign, you’ll likely find the BMW M3 a little underwhelming, what with its measly 331kW/550Nm and a propensity to spin the rear tyres into rubber-flinging oblivion with each traction control-free prod of the accelerator.
Happily, there's now a solution. Enter the M3 CS (Competition Sport); a track-ready special edition that ups the performance ante right across the board, with more power, stiffer suspension, better aero and the kind of angry exhaust note that sets tectonic plates a-rumbling.
So, is more M3 never enough? Or is the new CS too angry for its own good?
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The faster you go, the less comfortable things become. Any race car will prove this theory, and the current C 63 S AMG also backs it up with its, shall we say, 'performance-focused' package.
As you’d expect, its mighty E 63 S bigger brother is faster again. But surely it can’t afford to be less comfy than its C-Class sibling, particularly when it adds more than $80k to the sticker price and typically appeals to a more mature audience.
And sure enough, it isn’t, but rather than simply becoming the larger equivalent of the C 63 S, the new fastest E-Class somehow has enough bandwidth to satisfy expectations of three-pointed-star luxury and boast more performance than any four-door AMG ever.
Oh, and it’s also all-wheel drive (AWD) for the first time in Australia. None of this seems to add up, so how have they done it?
|Engine Type||4.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The biggest, baddest M3 is also the very best of the current breed. It's a specialist tool, sure, but if you're in the market for a track-attack sedan that will paint a smile on your face, even while striking fear into your heart, then look no further.
Jump into a BMW M3 CS or wait until next month for the new Merc-AMG C 63 S? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
The new E 63 S is proof that you can be supercar quick without having to feel like you’re in a racecar all the time.
It’s hard to find a single thing wrong with it once you’re past the near-quarter of a million dollar asking price, but even that’s more than 10 grand cheaper than before.
The only thing I’d like to see is the wagon version in Australia, but not enough us want to buy one.
In my opinion, it’s the best four-door AMG you can buy, and the new M5 will have to be pretty amazing to topple it.
Would you be happy to park an E 63 S in your garage, or would you wait to see how good the new M5 is? Tell us what you think in the comments below
Interesting, you say? Well, just look at it. The massively domed bonnet, the flared wheel guards, the blacked-out roof, the quad exhaust tips - this thing looks wild from every angle. BMW tells us you can actually swap the lightweight roof for a traditional version with a sunroof, but why on earth would you?
The dome bonnet is fitted with a massive rear-facing vent that sucks hot air off the engine, while the carbon front splitter emerges from the bottom of the grille as if the CS is forever jutting out its jaw. At the rear, the carbon wing is peaked at each end, again aiding aero efficiency, while four fat and centred exhaust tips complete a pretty angry-looking package.
The design across the board is not what you'd call understated, and it likely won't appeal to everyone, but I think it looks the absolute business.
Like the C 63 S, the easiest way to pick the E 63 S is by its bespoke front air dam, pumped front guards and the AMG-characteristic double-bulge bonnet. To the uneducated, it looks little more than an AMG-kitted lesser model, but is smartly distinguished from the regular body treatment.
No doubt a lot of $200k-plus performance sedan buyers would prefer it this way, instead of a giant rear wing and a bunch of extraneous vents to underline its supercar-like capabilities.
The wheels are unique to the E 63 S, with the 20-inch cross-spoke forged design measuring 9.5 inches wide up front and a full 10 inches at the rear. That’s as wide as Brocky’s Group C Torana A9X racer by the way, yet they snugly fit within the standard rear wheel arches.
The interior isn’t too far removed from a regular E-Class either - which is already a pretty swish place to be - but gets grippy, hard-backed 'Performance' seats, Alcantara grip sections and a straight-ahead marker added to the AMG steering wheel, plus a smattering of AMG logos.
Every bit as practical as any other M3, really, which is impressive given the outrageous performance.
There are some sacrifices made in pursuit of weight loss, of course. There's no centre-console storage (replaced by a strip of Alcantara and a single, lonely USB charge point), and backseat riders lose air vents, power and just about everything else. The good news, then, is that there's space a-plenty back there, with enough head and legroom behind my own 176cm driving position.
But up front, the M3 CS is a comfortable and spacious place to spend time. There are twin cupholders, too, as well as room in each of the doors for bottles. The navigation and multimedia systems are straight-forward and easy to use, as are the performance-focused functions.
No supercar will ever be as easy to live with as the E 63 S, with the passenger-car requisite two cupholders front and rear with bottle holders in each door, ample legroom and headroom for rear-seat passengers, and a 40/20/40 split-fold back seat leading to a cavernous 540-litre boot.
The E 63 S’s Performance front seats do lose their map pockets, though.
Price and features
At $179,900, the CS sets a new top-price for the M3 family, well above the $146,529 of the Competition version and miles clear of the entry-level Pure ($129,529). And so you might think you get much more for your money, but you would be wrong. In fact, you get much less.
This is a car designed with the relentless pursuit of performance in mind, so expect few extra luxuries - all of which would add weight. Instead, you get more power (of course), as well as a quad-tipped exhaust tuned to sound like the world is ending around you.
Semi-slick Michelin Cup tyres, lighter alloys, a race-focused bonnet (which, along with the roof, is made from a carbon-fibre/plastic composite, helping shave 10kg off the curb weight), some clever aero tech at the rear and lighter cabin materials also join the the standard features list.
Outside, expect staggered alloys (19-inch front, 20-inch rear), adaptive LED headlights and keyless entry. Inside, you'll find air-conditioning, navigation and a 12-speaker harman/kardon stereo controlled through an 8.8-inch screen.
With a list price of $239,611, it’s more than 2.5 times the price of a base E200, but Mercedes boasts that it’s also more than $10,000 cheaper than the model it replaced in May 2017, with a lot more equipment fitted standard.
This still puts it $82,000 higher than a C 63 S sedan and $80,000 more than the quite-quick V6 E 43, and a full $30,000 more than the regular E 63 that joined the range in December.
Whether the E 63 S’s extra fruit is worth it is up to you, but Mercedes expects most E 63 buyers will opt for the S.
Its extensive list of standard kit helps to justify its ask somewhat, with the only concession for performance being the deletion of the PRE-SAFE Impulse Side system because of the more sculpted Performance seats.
Our E 63 S was also optioned with $4200 worth of designo Selenite Grey magno matte paint, and the ceramic composite brakes signified by the gold calipers add a further $9900.
Engine & trans
The M3’s twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight-six engine has been tweaked to produce 338kW and a stonking 600Nm of tyre-frying torque. It’s channeled through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and sent to the rear wheels.
That’s enough, BMW says, for a blistering 3.9sec sprint from 0-100km/h, with the CS pushing on to a flying top speed of 280km/h.
The E 63 has also followed the C 63 in bucking the “no replacement for displacement” adage, dropping 1.5-litres over the model it replaced but gaining 20kW/50Nm for new totals of 450kW/850Nm.
This is thanks to an uprated version of the 4.0-litre twin turbo M177 V8, which is paired to a multi-plate clutch version of the excellent nine-speed auto for the first time.
BMW reckons you'll return 8.5L/100km on the combined cycle, with CO2 emissions pegged at 198g/km. But we politely disagree. We drove the CS in the fashion we imagine everyone will - or at least should, and our numbers were a little higher than that. Like three times higher.
This area is unlikely to be a top priority if you’re shopping for a $240k V8 performance saloon, but the E 63 S’s 9.3L/100km official combined fuel figure should catch your eye if it is. We experienced 11.6L/100km on test, which is pretty amazing given how tempting that throttle pedal is.
Also helping to forgive this temptation is a bigger 80-litre fuel tank (20-litres more than the base E-Class) which promises a comfortable range between fills.
The best performance cars straddle a razor-thin line between exhilarating and terrifying, and the M3 CS definitely parks an axle on either side of the divide.
It's not for the faint-hearted, the CS; it can be an angry, twitchy, rear-grip-relinquishing handful. And not just when you're overly aggressive on the exit of a corner (though also definitely then), but even when you plant your foot on a dead-straight, perfectly smooth and bone-dry patch of tarmac.
As a result, your heart is almost always beating just a little bit faster being the wheel, almost from the moment you slip into the driver’s seat and prod the start button, the exhaust barking into life like a whip cracking in your eardrum.
So intimidating at times, sure. But also huge handfuls of fun. The M3 (and the M3 Competition) experience has been fine tuned to near-enough perfection in the CS formula, from the super direct steering to the thunderous flow of power to the booming exhaust.
This is not a car built for suburban exploring, but BMW deserves credit for making its CS feel pretty liveable when it’s not being driven in anger. The suspension tuning especially, while you’d never accuse it of being overly comfortable, does a surprisingly good job of soaking up corrugations and bumps while still feeling ever-connected to the road below.
Push the start button and the ensuing rumble will annoy your neighbours if you leave for work early. This has come to be an AMG V8 trademark, but even with the exhaust button’s ability to liberate a few more decibels, it’s still a smidge more discreet than the C 63 S.
Not all AMG exhausts are created equal you see, with the E 63 S’s particular flavour sitting somewhere between the C and the SL tune, based on my recent experience.
What you’re left with is still up there with the industry best, with the range of tunes from angry burble to pops and cackles on overrun setting the scene well for the E63 S drive experience.
Range is a key word when it comes to the E 63 S, with an incredible 0-100km/h claim of 3.4 seconds headlining the performance end of its personality. This is a full six tenths faster than the C 63 S sedan, and it feels every bit of it.
It’s difficult to articulate just how fast this is, but bear in mind Ferrari’s mid-noughties F1 racer for the road, the Enzo, carried a 3.6 second claim. The E 63 S is 0.2s faster than that!
The AMG’s full 850 Newton metres are available from just 2500rpm (to 4500 for the record), making any prod of the accelerator very effective.
The nine-speed auto doesn't fail to impress either, with fast and responsive shifts in the sportier drive modes, with none of the slow-speed lag or shunting and clunking you tend to get from some rivals' dual-clutch units.
Helping all those Newtons get to the ground is the fully active AWD system, which has been set up to preserve the AMG-characteristic tailiness with a 31:69 default torque split front to rear.
Controlling the apportioning of power side-to-side is an electronic rear-axle limited slip differential (as opposed to the regular E 63’s mechanical unit), and the net result will let the rear end hang loose just enough before the torque vectoring sends more power to the front to pull you back into line.
Unlike pretty much every AWD system this side of a ute, the E 63 S is able to send 100 per cent of its power to the rear wheels when ‘Drift Mode’ is engaged, with Race selected from the drive menu.
This also means deactivating the stability and traction control altogether, flicking the transmission to manual mode and pulling on the shift paddles, but in the interests of retaining employment and my general wellbeing, we’ll save Drift Mode for the race track.
Another claim we’ll have to leave purely theoretical is that the speed limiter has been relaxed by 50km/h to permit a full 300! This is a large four-door sedan, remember. How very German.
The abundance of aluminium in the W213 E-Class shell has led to a feeling of lightness that I feel detracts from the classic E-Class ‘bank vault’ sensation in the lesser models, but this actually works in the E 63 S’s favour.
At 1955kg, it’s a full 300kg heavier than the C 63 S sedan, but doesn’t really feel it. Granted, a lot of that weight would be down low, due to the AWD system, but it retains a general feeling of lightness and a willingness to change direction.
Also helping are bespoke front suspension architecture for a wider track and more hardcore geometry, a unique steering column, and the S also gets hydraulic engine mounts that tighten up to sharpen feel in the more aggressive drive modes.
Grip from the 265mm wide front tyres and 295mm rears is fantastic, but they will break away gently to give confidence when driving at the limit. This also makes a bit of tail wagging out of corners a lot less nerve-wracking.
The ceramic composite brakes fitted to our car also do an excellent job of reighning in all that performance quickly and consistently, and unlike a lot of similar setups they don’t squeal when cold.
Beyond this outstanding performance and driver appeal, the E 63 S’s trump card is its ability to return to regular E-Class luxury at the flick of a switch - back into Comfort mode.
The airbag suspension is arguably what is most responsible for this duality, but it’s also a sign of all the mechanical components being developed together to work in harmony, with such a spectrum of ability being targeted from the get-go. This is not an E-Class with AMG mods, this is an E-Class that’s been designed to be an AMG from the beginning.
Adding a “but wait, there’s more” edge to the E 63 S’s drive experience is the fact that like all versions of the new E-Class, the active safety systems work together to enable Drive Pilot semi-autonomous driving, which represents Level 2 autonomy.
This means you can drive down a motorway with only an occasional touch of the steering wheel as an input, and it will even change lanes if the indicators are activated. As amazing as they are, we recommend exercising great caution when using these features, however.
Another victim of the performance goals here, I'm afraid, with everything that can be removed, removed - hell, even the reversing camera has been punted.
Instead, the safety package consists of front, and front-side airbags and a performance-focused traction and braking package. Parking sensors front and rear, active cruise and speed-limit recognition round out a fairly basic package.
The rest of the BMW range received the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when crash tested in 2012.
Like all versions of the W213 E-Class, the E 63 S carries the maximum five-star ANCAP (tested 2016) and EuroNCAP safety ratings. A brilliantly integrated suite of active and passive safety features go well beyond its standard AEB, nine-airbag count, 360-degree parking cameras, rear cross-traffic alerts, and a pedestrian-protecting active bonnet.
The only slight compromise is the deletion of the PRE-SAFE Impulse Side system which moves the occupant away from a collision if a potential side impact is detected.
This is because of the E 63 S’s standard “Performance” front seats, but the system is restored if the less sculpted “sport seats” are optioned through the Active Comfort package.
BMW's three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty applies here, with a "condition-based servicing" schedule that means you're car will tell you when work is required. You can prepay your servicing costs for the first five years of ownership, spanning $3350 to $8450 depending on your level of coverage.
As with all Mercedes passenger cars, the E 63 S is covered by a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty. Service intervals are either 12 months or 20,000km and the first three services are capped at $736, $1472 and $1472 respectively.
This compares with $668/$1356/$1356 for the E 43, and 456/912/912 for a base E200, and the latter two models have 25,000km intervals.