BMW M4 VS Mercedes-Benz C63
- Adaptive suspension
- Ripping dual-clutch auto
- No AEB
- Awkward access to tight rear seats
- So-so warranty
- Colossal power
- Improved ride
- Fun chassis
- Interior design a bit so-so
- No spare tyre
When it comes to cars, the letters B, M, and W carry huge credibility. But the extra letters and numbers that follow make all the difference.
A second M for example, means the hot rodders in the Munich maker's performance and racing skunkworks have played with everything from the drivetrain, aero and suspension, to the rims, rubber and interior design.
The number sitting next to it then determines whether you're looking at a compact firecracker (M2), fast-lane monster (M5), or bruising family truckster (X6 M). But every now and then some additional letters find their way onto even a BMW M car's bootlid.
In this case, a C and an S are significant additions to the already impressive M4 badge. They stand for Coupe Sport and were famously applied to BMW's achingly beautiful (E9) coupes of the late 1960s and early '70s.
So, with the howling echo of that all-time classic's in-line six ringing in its ears, the new M4 CS stands up as a proper high-performance coupe, pitched against the likes of Audi's recently reborn RS 5, the Lexus RC F, and Merc-AMG's soon-to-arrive C 63 S Coupe.
Does the CS legend live? Read on to find out.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
To slightly misquote Bob Dylan, how many parts must a manufacturer change before it becomes a true facelift? Well, in the case of the C63 S, Mercedes reckons the car's mid-life facelift contains 6500 new or revised parts. That's a lot of bits, but on even close examination, it just looks like a new grille on the W205's nose.
The C63 is a familiar fixture on our roads. AMG knows how to create an audio signature for its cars - my wife can recognise a C63's V8 dirty bark a mile off, and she's not quite as keen on cars as I am. It's the highest-selling AMG in the country, so Mercedes Australia won't want serious changes to upset their apple cart.
After counting at least 15 of the 6500 new bits, a refreshed interior and one of the great road car engines left well alone, we went on a road trip to the Bathurst 12 Hour to see what's what.
|Engine Type||4.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The BMW M4 CS is every bit as fast and engaging as you'd expect it to be. But be prepared for the day-to-day compromises that go with its pared back interior layout. It's beautifully engineered and dynamically excellent, but will have its hands full when Merc-AMG's similarly sized and priced (updated) C 63 S Coupe arrives shortly to rattle its cage.
Is the BMW M4 CS your kind of four-seat sledgehammer? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
BMW offers the 'Service Inclusive' program, a one-off advance payment to cover scheduled costs at the 'Basic' or 'Plus' level.
This facelift must have been an unenviable task. The C63 is wildly popular, particularly in Australia and there wasn't much wrong with it before. The addition of the new driving modes offers yet more adjustability and the refreshed suspension has delivered a better ride.
Leaving the core of the car alone means it remains an exceptionally appealing sports sedan. You can easily live with it as your only family car because it can carry four moderately-sized people in comfort with the genuine ability to scare the crap out of them.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
Does the refreshed C63 grab your attention? Or does the similarly-priced GLC63 tick more boxes?
The M4 in either entry-level Pure, or next-step-up Competition spec already looks like John Cena in a 10-year-old's t-shirt, with muscular bumps, curves and cuts extending aggressively in all directions. From its bulbous 'power dome' bonnet, to the pumped-up guards and gaping vents, the M4 screams 'don't argue'.
But this CS version borrows heavily from the track-focused M4 GTS (phased out earlier this year) and dials the aggro up a few notches.
A Matterhorn-sized bulge in the centre of the lightweight CFRP (Carbon-Fibre Reinforced Plastic) bonnet descends towards a broad air extraction vent that could double as a stormwater drain in bad weather.
The front, exposed carbon splitter is a slightly less accentuated version of the GTS's race-ready set-up, and the signature kidney grille is finished in menacing gloss black.
That black finish, part of the standard BMW Individual 'Shadow Line' package, also extends to the side-window trim, window recess covers, and vents on the front wings.
CFRP (unpainted this time) reappears on the roof, and an exposed carbon Gurney flap-style spoiler adds a touch of flash and aero efficiency to the bootlid. A nice match for the carbon diffuser below.
Suitably wide black alloy rims (19-inch front, 20-inch rear) further enhance the intimidating look, with twin LED headlights and an 'Organic rear lighting system', the latter another lift from the GTS, delivering an impressively vivid display.
The interior is familiar BMW territory, but it does feel like you've had a nasty break-up and your significant other has filled the moving van with all the luxury bits.
The leather and Alcantara trimmed sports seats are classy and racy enough, but the door cards are made from a natural-fibre composite BMW calls 'Nawaro'. There are no storage pockets, and you get a webbing strap to help pull the door closed.
Super lo-fi, and bafflingly, the 'armrest' slopes downward at an angle that, despite an Alcantara-trimmed pad, makes it just about impossible to actually rest your arm on it. Perhaps it adds some wheel-twirling elbow room, but for the other 99 per cent of the time it's just annoying.
Although trimmed in contrast-stitched Alcantara, the centre console is also a rudimentary affair, with no storage box between the front seats or adjustable air vents for rear-seat passengers. It might be good for weight saving, but it's not so great in terms of day-to-day practicality (which we'll get to shortly).
There's more Alcantara on the M Sport steering wheel (a leather wheel is a no-cost option) and dash-panel insert, with the CS designation neatly called out in mosaic-style lettering near the centre stack.
The new C63 doesn't look all that much different apart from the front. The new Panamericana grille we've already seen on the GLC63 has trickled down from the AMG GT, the old C63's grille is now on the C43. The current C-Class is a fairly conservative design - as are all the German sedans in this segment - but the AMG additions help it stand out from the rest of the range providing a C200 buyer hasn't slapped on the AMG pack. Apart from the grille and diffuser, the C63 also has red brake calipers.
Inside is roughly the same. The interior is really from a time when Mercedes weren't really doing nice looking cabins. There's certainly nothing wrong with the quality, but the mixture of materials is a bit much. The open-pore wood is lovely, with a nice texture to it and it looks good, certainly nicer than over-polished slabs of tree from of old. The AMG front seats, with a massive amount of adjustment, are excellent and hugely comfortable.
When it comes to cars, practicality is a subjective area. The M4 CS offers plenty of space for the driver and front-seat passenger, with room for two more in the back, as well as a decent boot. Practical, right?
But day-to-day details make all the difference and the drive to simplify the CS's cabin and reduce the car's overall weight has seen many common interior-storage options deleted.
The price CS owners pay for racy minimalism is a complete absence of door bins, no lidded box between the front seats, and no oddments tray in the middle of the centre console. Just a pair of cupholders ahead of the gearshift, and a shallow tray beyond that.
If you and a friend get into the car each carrying a standard load of personal junk like a phone, keys, wallet, and a beverage of some description, capacity is immediately exceeded.
Yes, you can shove all that 'stuff' into the (medium-sized) glove box, and that's probably the safer option anyway. But it's not as convenient as slipping things into strategically placed bins and boxes.
In terms of charging/connectivity there's a 12-volt outlet between the cupholders, and a single USB port oddly placed towards the rear of the centre console.
And while there are two seats in the back, getting to them requires the flexibility of a side-show contortionist, and the patience of a Tesla Model 3 reservation holder (the electric system that slides the front seat forward is glacially slow).
Even once you've managed to thread the needle through to the back, headroom is tight, so it's fine for kids and an occasional-only option for grown-ups. There are no cupholders or even a fold-down centre armrest back there, but there is a small, open oddments tray between the seats.
A cargo net is standard, there are four tie-down anchors, a small netted storage section behind the passenger side wheel tub, a cubby on the opposite side, shopping-bag hooks and conveniently placed handles, which release the 60/40 split-folding rear seat backs to liberate more room.
Don't bother looking for a spare wheel of any description. A repair/inflator kit is your only option.
Front seat passengers enjoy a useful pair of cupholders and a good size central bin with two USB points inside it to join the one in the cubby under the climate controls. The glove box is large enough to fit the massive owners manual. Each door has a bottle holder, too, but you'll be lying them on their side.
In the back you've got very welcome air vents, easily room for two adults as long as the front seats aren't occupied by giants and a rear armrest with dual cupholders (for a total of four). The plastic shells on the back of the excellent front seats might be a bit hard on a taller person's knees, though. If your feeling squished, you can poke the driver's shoulders through the fake belt slots on the front seats.
Price and features
In a classic less-is-more (money) scenario, the $189,529 BMW M4 CS cops a decent serving of standard features, but misses out on some of the luxury trimmings included on the next-rung-down M4 Competition ($156,710).
Standard inclusions run to adaptive LED headlights (including 'BMW Selective Beam' anti-dazzle tech), adaptive M suspension, combination 'Merino' leather/Alcantara seat trim, Alcantara-wrapped 'M' sports steering wheel (with blue/red stitching), a configurable head-up display, a 'BMW Individual' Anthracite roofliner, 'Comfort Access' (keyless entry and start), plus the 'iDrive6' multimedia system (managed via controller, touch or voice) running through an 8.8-inch, high-definition screen.
There are also big 10-spoke forged alloy rims, front-seat heating, sat nav, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, front and rear park distance control, 'Surround View' parking assist, and the 'BMW ConnectedDrive' suite ('BMW Connected+' smartphone app, real-time traffic info, concierge services, and more).
That's a heavyweight equipment list for a car that's all about lightness. Inside, besides the basic door and centre console arrangement, the other significant concessions to kilo stripping are a 'specially adapted' 12-speaker version of Harman/Kardon's 'Surround Sound' audio system with DAB+ digital radio (16-speaker in the Competition), and a simplified, single-zone climate control set-up (dual-zone in the Competition).
Kind of like the CEO wearing a Swatch watch; they're wealthy and powerful, but 'all about performance', so they wear a functional, conspicuously un-flashy timepiece. They still live in a $10m penthouse apartment, though.
You can choose from four C63 S variants - from the $160,900 sedan, $163,400 wagon, $165,900 coupe or the $184,000 cabriolet. The car I drove was the sedan, the top-seller of the range and it's worth nothing that despite me calling it the C63, it's the C63 S - we don't bother with the non-S in Australia.
Off the line, the C63 comes with 19-inch forged alloys from the AMG GT, a new stability and control electronics package, fully digital dash with telemetry pack, 13-speaker stereo system, auto LED headlights with active high beam control, active cruise control, auto wipers, head up display, Nappa leather, a naff IWC-branded analogue clock and a tyre repair kit.
The car I drove also had the air-ionizing and fragrance system that made the car smell like an Emirates A380 cabin.
A huge 10.25-inch media screen sits atop the console and features Mercedes' 'Comand' system, controlled by a rotary dial with that weird tongue with the touchpad arching over it. Comand is getting better over the years and is now quite usable, although Mercedes is resisting making the screen responsive to touch.
Engine & trans
Like its E9 coupe forbear, the M4 CS is powered by an in-line six-cylinder engine, but things have moved on over the last 50 years, and the current (S55) engine offers a mechanical case study in the marriage of high-performance and efficiency.
The all-alloy unit features direct injection and twin turbos, the key drivers behind a stonking 600Nm of maximum torque (50kW up on the M4 Competition), available from 4000-5380rpm, and peak power of 338kW (+7kW), arriving at 6250 rpm.
It also features a 'charge air' (air-to-air) intercooler, 'Double Vanos' variable cam timing, and 'Valvetronic' variable valve lift (inlet and exhaust side).
The sleeveless cylinders use 'Electric Arc Wire Spray' technology to form a thin coating of iron on the cylinder walls, to save weight (no cast-iron liners) and reduce manufacturing complexity. And the engine's closed-deck design increases the block's torsional rigidity, enabling a substantial 10.2:1 compression ratio and use of a lightweight, forged crankshaft.
Transmission is a seven-speed 'M Double-Clutch' (M DCT) dual-clutch auto, complete with dedicated oil cooler, and drive is distributed across the rear axle via an electronically controlled, multi-plate 'Active M Differential'.
Power from the AMG 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 is unchanged at a colossal 375kW/700Nm. All of that still goes to the rear wheels only, but now sent there by a nine-speed auto. The 'MCT' (Multi-Clutch Transmission) is not, Mercedes hastens to add, a dual clutch.
The C63 is blindingly fast, cracking the ton in around four seconds. If we had the space and the law had a sense of humour about these things, top whack is a mildly incongruous 300km/h. It might even go faster if AMG didn't whack on a limiter.
The MCT is like a motorbike clutch where a number of clutch plates are in an oil bath and there's just a single input shaft rather than all the doubling-up of a twin-clutch transmission.
The C63 also has a electronic rear diff to ensure maximum fun if you've got a good tyre budget.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 8.3L/100km, the twin-turbo six emitting 194g/km of CO2 in the process.
Over roughly 350km of city, suburban and freeway driving (much of it 'enthusiastic') we recorded 10.9L/100km (at the bowser) An impressive number for such a strongly performance-focused machine.
Minimum fuel requirement is 98 RON premium unleaded, and you'll need 60 litres of it to fill the tank.
Mercedes' official figures weigh in at 10.7L/100km on the combined cycle, which is not bad for a 375kW V8, even in the lab.
The harsh reality is that when you give it the beans, you'll be up around the 14.0L/100km mark, which we saw with a fair amount of, shall we say, spirited driving. Having said that, one wonders if a less enthusiastic right foot might realistically hit 11.0L/100km or so.
Let's get it out of the way. The M4 CS is fast. Anything running 0-100km/h in less than four seconds gains admission to a seriously rapid club, and BMW claims 3.9sec for this car (an exact match for the soon-to-arrive Merc-AMG C63 S Coupe).
We might have given the standard launch-control system a go, and may be able to confirm straight-line acceleration from step-off will compress your chest like an over-zealous lifesaver at CPR practice.
But just as impressive is the in-gear thrust, with 80km/h to licence loss (120km/h) covered in only 3.4sec. Which plays to the twin-turbo six's strength, with maximum torque arriving at a relatively high 4000rpm, and remaining on tap until 5380rpm.
Power doesn't reach its peak until 6250rpm, with the rev ceiling sitting at 7600rpm; impressively high for a twin-turbo engine.
Everything from the DSC, ABS, and active suspension to the active diff, electrically assisted steering and seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission has been tuned specifically for the M4 CS.
The 'M DCT' auto is agreeably civilised at parking speeds, yet shifts positively and rapidly, especially in manual mode, under pressure at higher pace.
An M Sport exhaust system features electronically controlled flaps sitting directly in front of the rear mufflers, and varies the intensity of the accompanying soundtrack according to drive mode and level of aggression. It sounds suitably angry, but those hoping for the soaring purity of say the (S54) naturally aspirated in-line six found under the bonnet of the E46 M3 will be left hankering for the good old days.
Front suspension is a modified MacPherson strut design, with a five-link set-up at the rear, and data from wheel-acceleration sensors on each corner is used to recalibrate each damper's setting every 2.5 milliseconds.
The drivetrain, suspension and steering can each be dialled into 'Comfort', 'Sport' or 'Sport+' modes, and the CS's ride changes markedly in the switch from Comfort to Sport; the former proving compliant and smooth rolling over rough city surfaces, and the latter keeping things reassuringly buttoned down on a B-road blast.
Although BMW says that, unlike the M4 GTS, it has deliberately steered the M4 CS away from a focus on the circuit (no roll cage, no adjustable splitters or spoilers) we'd suggest it's best to keep the Sport+ suspension setting for track days unless you're already planning on replacing some of your older fillings.
Speaking of track days, BMW says the M4 CS's dynamics were “honed on the Nurburgring Nordschleife” where it's recorded a best lap time of 7:38, which is as fast as a Ferrari 458 Italia and Lexus LFA. That's very, very impressive.
At 1580kg the M4 CS is 35kg lighter than the M4 Competition (1615kg), and just five kegs under the Pure (1585kg), so despite all the light-weighting hype it's worth remembering we're still looking at a car tipping the scales at just under 1.6 tonnes.
The electromechanical steering can also be tuned through the three performance modes, and Sport delivers the best combination of quick turn-in, agreeably linear assistance and decent road feel.
But putting the CS's power down out of even moderately quick, tight corners is less convincing. The big forged-alloy rims (19-inch front, 20-inch rear) are shod with ultra-high-performance Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber (265/35 front – 285/30 rear).
Squeezing the power in smoothly but quickly, the semi-slick tyres feel like they need more heat in them. Without going anywhere near the DSC's more taily 'M Dynamic' modes, and despite the active diff, the rear of the car will squirm when fed full throttle acceleration on corner exit, unsettling overall balance. Less edgy Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres are a no-cost option.
The standard M sport front seats look the part (the M4 logos in the backrest illuminate!) and grip firmly without any discomfort for this 183cm tester.
And when it comes to slowing everything down, the standard brakes run to big ventilated discs front and rear, clamped by four-piston calipers at the front, and two-piston at the rear.
Our test example was optioned with the $15,000 'M carbon ceramic' package featuring humungous carbon rotors, thumping six-piston calipers up front, and four-piston rear. For that money you'd expect Le Mans-style braking performance, and while we didn't exactly put them to a 24-hour high-speed test, firm application of the left-hand pedal will consistently stand the car on its nose.
As you might imagine, the V8 engine dominates the C63. Spectacular power and torque figures and the AMG performance exhaust mean that even pottering around is a treat, with just a toe's weight required to get it moving and a lovely V8 burble following you around. In Comfort mode it's firm but perfectly comfortable, an improvement on the first go at the car.
From the driver's seat, one of the reasons I don't like that tongue on the Comand dial is that it obscures the rocker switch that controls the driving mode selection. Not a big deal, just annoying (and it's probably only a right-hand drive problem) but AMG has fixed it.
On the new steering wheel is a Ferrari Manettino-style twisty-wheel with a little screen in it. Turn the dial to the right and you cycle up from 'Comfort' through to 'Race'. On the other spoke is a pair of shortcut buttons so you can turn up the noise or turn it down without taking your hands off the wheel.
As ever, changing the mode changes the way the car behaves. There's a new slippery mode for wet or snowy surfaces and there is also a slip control feature for when you want to unstick the rear end and a new set of chassis modes - 'Basic', 'Advanced', 'Pro' and 'Master'. So, plenty to choose from, and you can mix and match in the configurable I mode.
The MCT transmission is awesome. It feels just like a well-sorted, sports-tuned automatic when you're tooling around but when you get on it, the shifts are lighting fast. The gears are weirdly long considering how many of them there are, but there's so much torque ninth gear is longer than Trump's ties. Highway speeds have the engine turning at 1200rpm.
If you're worried about this long build-up, let me put you out of your misery - the C63's wild-child reputation is undimmed. The new system settings merely give you more choice over how wild this car can be. 'Sport' and 'Sport +' are the choice modes out in the real world, with a bellowing exhaust but a set of loose-but-not-too-loose reins to keep you from flying off the road. The giant torque figure ensures plenty of, er, driver involvement as an injudicious right foot will mean a lively rear end. Move into 'Race' and you'll be busy.
The C63's philosophy of fun rather than the outright sharpness of its Audi RS and BMW M rivals is unashamed. If a C63 went to the track, it won't be the fastest through the corners, but you'll be having the most fun and working super-hard, in a good way.
Backing up all that power is a set of what Mercedes confusingly call composite brakes - what that means is that the inner ring is made of aluminium while the actual braking surface of the 390mm (front) discs is steel. Given their size, you can reasonably expect them to be rather effective and you would be correct. What's more they have plenty of feel and the bite is just right - not too grabby but you're never in any doubt that they're there and ready.
The cabin can get a little noisy over less-than-perfect surfaces. The tyre rumble will require a deployment of some loud music to cover the racket from the sticky Michelin Sport Cups.
The BMW 4 Series (and by extension the M4 CS) hasn't been assessed for crash safety by ANCAP or EuroNCAP, but boasts a solid array of active and passive safety tech, with several notable omissions.
To help you avoid a crash the M4 CS features ABS, brake assist, EBA, EBD, 'Cornering Brake Control' (CBC), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) and dry braking, 'Emergency stop signal', lane-departure warning and a tyre-pressure-monitoring system.
M4 owners also receive a complimentary BMW Intensive Driving Experience course (one person per vehicle purchase), which is arguably the best crash prevention measure of all.
But significantly, there's no AEB (Auto Emergency Braking) or other, more recent safety bits and pieces (found on other current BMW models) like blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision warning, fatigue detection, reverse collision avoidance, or speed-sign recognition and warning.
If all else fails and a collision is unavoidable passive safety tech runs to head and side airbags for the driver and front passenger, as well as curtain airbags covering front and rear. But again, things like an active bonnet and active front head restraints, fitted elsewhere in the BMW world, are MIA.
There are ISOFIX child-restraint anchors with top tether points in each of the rear seat positions.
The C63 has nine airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, reverse cross traffic alert, slippery surface mode, driver attention detection, blind spot warning, brake assist, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, around-view camera and traffic sign recognition.
ANCAP last tested the C-Class in July 2014 and awarded it five stars, although the C63 was not included.
Warranty cover is three years/unlimited km, with 24/7 roadside assistance included for three years, and additional support from BMW 'Servicemobiles' (07:00 – 23:00 every day) staffed by trained techs and stocked with key service parts.
Maintenance on all BMW 4 Series models is controlled by a 'Condition Based Servicing' system which piles real-time data (mileage, time since last service, fuel consumption, and how the car has been driven) into a specific algorithm to determine whether an annual vehicle inspection or (oil) service is due.
Mercedes throws in a segment-standard (but industry-lagging) three-years/unlimited kilometre warranty. Somewhat generously, you get three years roadside assistance and remarkably sensible 12 months/20,000km service intervals.
Servicing remains the same as before, with the first service in the standard program at $656 and the latter two at $1352 each for a total of $3360 over three years. Not cheap but not horrific either.