Mercedes-Benz C63 2013 Review
There's a new way by which Australia's economic outlook can now be judged. It's called the Mercedes-Benz AMG index, and if the latest figures are a guide, Australia, you're rolling in it.
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The F80 BMW M3 represents the fifth-generation of one of the most respected performance nameplates in modern motoring. However unlike previous M3s, the F80 is now exclusively a four-door sedan, with the two-door coupe variant following the F30 3 and F32 4 Series duo in adopting a unique naming strategy – in this case the first ever use of the M4 badge.
The second-gen E36 and fourth-gen E90 M3s were also available as sedans, and all four previous generations were built as a convertible, but the M3 as we knew it was generally associated with two doors and a coupe bodystyle.
With the official titles of F80 M3 Sedan and F82 M4 Coupe, the new mid-size full-house M-models promise more power and performance than ever before, with significant efficiency and emissions gains over the V8 models they replace.
The F80/F82 models are also more distinct from their 3 Series basis than ever before, with bespoke front and rear suspension hardware, and monocoque upgrades sufficient to warrant unique model codes from the F30/F32 3 and 4 Series models for the first time.
Key visual identifiers include aggressive front and rear valances, quad exhaust pipes, aluminium power-bulge bonnet and a unique composite ducktail bootlid on the M4. Merely a tarted up 3 Series this is not, and only front doors and the M3’s boot panel are shared with the mainstream models.
Like the current generation 3 and 4 Series, the new M3 and M4 use greater proportions of weight-saving aluminium and carbon-fibre reinforced plastic than their predecessors, saving weight by about 60kg in the M3 - with the 1560kg new model also scoring the 1537kg coupe’s exposed carbon roof turret for the first time.
The interiors feature specific trim with carbon fibre highlights, unique instruments, heavily bolstered seats, and the new weight-tailored magnesium-framed M steering wheel that combines a thick rim with soft padding around its circumference for consistent finger grip, and is perfectly circular to appease purists.
Like the respective 3 and 4 Series models, the M3 has seating for five while the tighter rear quarters of the M4 leaves room for just two passengers.
Following the M tradition of model-specific hero colours, the new M3 and M4 are available in the unique Yas Marina Blue and Austin Yellow colours that were used to debut the models.
Prices of both models have shifted slightly upwards from their predecessors – note the previous M3 sedan was discontinued in 2012 – but BMW claims this is balanced by more than $8700 worth of extra standard kit.
Out of the box, both the $156,900 M3 and $166,900 M4 come with most luxuries including leather trim, an 8.8 inch widescreen multimedia screen with satnav and digital radio, multiple camera exterior monitor and front and rear parking sensors, bi-xenon active headlights and 19-inch alloys.
Key options include gloss black painted wheels ($500), gold caliper carbon ceramic brakes with six-pistons on 400mm rotors up front ($15,000), LED headlights ($2,360), a heads-up display ($1700), and leather trimmed dash and door sections ($2700).
An electric sunroof is available at no extra cost, but you lose the carbon-fibre turret and add another 20kg well above the centre of gravity.
The engine powering the M3 and M4 is perhaps more controversial than the shift in nomenclature, as the F80 and F82 mechanical twins have dropped the E90/92/93 models' screaming 309kW/400Nm 4.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 for a 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight six.
Increased pressure for fuel-efficiency and reduced emissions are the main reasons for the shift, and similar downsizing is set to occur across the performance car world in the coming years. Even exotics like the Lamborghini Huracan and Ferrari California T have already made similar moves to reduced capacity and forced induction, and the M3/M4’s closest competititon - the upcoming second-generation Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG is moving from a non-turbo 6.2-litre to 4.0-litres with twin-turbos for its V8.
In the case of the BMWs, combined fuel consumption has dropped from 11.2L/100km to 8.3, and CO2 emissions from 266g/km to 194, while producing more power and torque than ever. Another key improvement is the new engine’s 150Nm – or near 40 per cent - torque gain is developed between 1850-5500rpm, promising massive gains in flexibility over the V8’s 4000rpm torque peak.
Following much of the performance automotive world, along with buyer preference, a third-generation of BMW’s seven-speed dual-clutch auto is now the default option for Aus-bound M3 and M4 buyers.
The new box is easily toggled between auto and manual modes, and manual selection is available via the console shifter or wheel-mounted shift paddles.
A six-speed manual is also available by order at no extra cost, but extends the DCT’s 4.1 second official 0-100km/h claim by 0.2s and stretches combined fuel consumption by 0.5L to 8.8L/100km.
Like their 3 and 4 Series basis, the M3 and M4 are expected to carry a five star safety rating, with dual front, side and full-length curtain airbags, pre-collision preparation, post-collision braking, advanced stability and traction control, and ConnectedDrive automatic emergency services alert.
However, lane departure and blind-spot alerts and automated city braking are still options.
Put to work, the new M3 and M4 deliver on the expectation of razor-sharp dynamics combined with brilliant performance.
Like the previous M3s and other recent Ms, these dynamics can be tailored by the driver via button-actuated modes that give individual options for traction/stability control, throttle response and exhaust noise, adaptive damper settings and steering assistance levels.
The traction and stability control can be simply turned off, and the rest can cycle through Comfort/Efficiency, Sport, or Sport Plus modes to suit the driver’s preference or driving conditions.
There’s also the ability to store your favourite two combinations, which can be accessed via the M1 or M2 buttons on the steering wheel.
Sport mode also opens the variable exhaust flaps to reveal a carefully tuned straight-six bark – a clear reference to the BMW sixes of old and making BMW one of very few manufacturers to currently embrace the aural abilities of a six cylinder.
We sampled the M3and M4 on some very wet track and lengthy winding road conditions, and found it equally at home in either scenario.
The steering is precise on turn-in, with fluid assistance and great feel, which M3 fans will find reassuring given it’s the first generation to use electric assistance.
The unique suspension architecture pushes the wheels out to each corner, giving a broad-shoulder feeling of stability under rapid cornering.
The new engine’s broad torque band and rapid turbo response means that all 317kW and 550Nm are just a right ankle flex away, and ready to balance too-tall gear selections in manual mode.
The seven-speed unit offers lightning-fast shifts like most dual-clutchers, and behaves smoothly and confidently in auto mode – even during hill-starts.
The standard four-piston on 380mm steel front rotors were untroubled in the wet, but gave good feel to help avoid awaking the ABS system.
The standard Active M Differential multi-plate limited slip diff which can send up to 100 percent of drive to a single rear wheel to preserve grip, which combined brilliantly with the wide 275mm Michelins on the rear of both models in the wet conditions of our test.
Wheelspin and oversteer are certainly available, but need to be asked for - a wise safety net then for inexperienced drivers.
Pared back to Comfort and Efficiency modes for a long cross-country winding drive, the M3 and M4 are converted to an excellent grand tourer.
There’s still a great M sense of occasion, but the edges are smoothened and the ride quality prepared for surfaces other than racetrack smooth.
There’s still some road noise on coarse surfaces, but this is forgiveable given the breadth of the new M3 and M4’s talents.
The new M3 and M4 are a triumph for the skilled folk at BMW’s M GmbH performance works. They’ve successfully built new models that are both quicker and more efficient, yet still adhere to the guiding principles of driver feedback and enjoyment that have made the M3 a modern legend.
They’re much easier to get the best out of, and easily adapt to hard laps on the track, a blast through your favourite mountain road, the daily commute or a long highway journey.
Which one to buy? The equally fast and dynamic M3 is a compelling option with its $10,000 cheaper starting price and seating for five, but its chunkier looks would be the clincher in our eyes.
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