BMW M4 vs Mercedes-Benz C63 vs Nissan GT-R vs Audi RS5 2014 Review
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Stuart Martin and Cara Jenkin compare the BMW M4 against the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, Nissan GT-R and Audi RS5.
Some cars are sensible, some cost $150K-plus, some cover both bases. Australian buyers are drawn increasingly to the brawn of prestige performance cars, despite eye-watering price tags that start at about $150,000.
Australia is the biggest per-capita market - and fifth-largest outright - for Mercedes-Benz's performance brand AMG. Performance vehicles make up one in 10 Benz sales here.
It's a similar story for BMW's M Division and Audi's RS.
And it's not just the luxury brands that are turning heads. Nissan's ballistic GT-R coupe, dubbed 'Godzilla' for its potent performance, has built a steady following since arriving in 2009.
We've lined it up against BMW's M4, Audi's RS5 and Mercedes-Benz's C63 AMG. All have the practicality of four seats (the Nissan's rear seats are more for kids) plus the long list of features and driver-assistance technology you'd expect at the price.
The M4's 3.0-litre straight six has the least displacement and lowest outputs but the car is lighter and the engine is force-fed by two turbos for ample performance.
Nissan's GT-R runs a significantly more powerful 3.8-litre V6 twin-turbo but that advantage is offset by its extra 200kg. The engine also doesn't have the character of the BMW.
That can't be said of the RS5's 4.2-litre V8, which matches a wonderful exhaust note with flexible and prodigious performance.
At 6.2 litres, the V8 in the C63 coupe is a bespoke AMG engine sharing parts with the SLS supercar. It has a superb soundtrack and the grunt to match.
The three Germans can sprint from rest to 100km/h in less than 4.5 seconds and Nissan claims 2.7 seconds for the GT-R, a figure described as optimistic by some critics.
The BMW and the Benz are rear-wheel drive, the Audi and the Nissan have all-paw traction.
The C63's manners around town are superior, but all four can be driven at low speed without serious complaint.
Audi's AWD normally splits power 40 per cent to front, 60 per cent rear, but up to 70 per cent of the drive can be channelled to the front and up to 85 per cent to the rear.
The GT-R can send up to 100 per cent to the rear.
There's a savage beauty to all four. The M4 is the most subtle, with less bulge in the flanks and intricate detail in the front air intakes, rear diffuser and bumper profiles.
The Audi still looks fresh, stylish and muscular but the sweeping roofline restricts rear headroom.
The GT-R is a head-turner not because of cutting edge style but potential to menace.
It has broad and high shoulders and overt aerodynamic styling that appeals to the boy racer.
In brooding black, with a low-slung front spoiler and menacing bonnet vents, the AMG leaves no doubt as to its purpose.
The RS5 has had a $20,000 price cut, the ride quality has improved, (it had to) but the highlight is the engine - it sounds fantastic and gathers pace with inordinate ease.
The adjustable suspension is best in 'auto' mode; comfort is too soft, dynamic too harsh. The grip is substantial and the clever drivetrain has made understeer a rare event.
Cabin design and quality is top-notch, the boot is a useful size and the infotainment controls are easy to use.
Godzilla is a vehicle that is greater than the sum of its parts
The M4 feels the most useful all-rounder. In the one hand, it has a decent-sized boot and a rear seat that adults can get comfortable in; on the other it's an absolute weapon to drive.
The chassis, engine and transmission can be tweaked via M buttons on the steering wheel, while the adaptive damping makes the ride liveable for a sports car.
It can bite if you back off the electronic aids beyond your abilities, but disciplined driving is well rewarded.
The C63 doesn't quite have the meaty steering of the BMW, but it rides a little better than the Audi.
There are a couple of annoying features in the AMG, such as the old-school foot-operated park brake and the lack of full iPod integration through the USB input.
There's just enough space for four occupants and a generous boot to hold their gear. The engine will go down as one of the classics - its bark is rabid when provoked, and it's backed up by biting acceleration off the mark.
Godzilla is a vehicle that is greater than the sum of its parts. Rear room is minuscule, the boot is small at 315L and it's not classically pretty or handsome to look at or hear.
Ride quality in comfort mode has improved a little but some will baulk at the PlayStation-esque super-informative centre display.
The Nissan is also the most expensive vehicle here at $177,000 but what you get for the extra cash is unearthly thrust and grip that's nothing short of stunning. This is a stupendously potent animal.
Range and Specs
|4.2 FSI Quattro||4.2L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$68,900 – 87,120||2014 Audi RS5 2014 4.2 FSI Quattro Pricing and Specs|
|4.2 FSI Quattro||4.2L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$61,100 – 77,220||2014 Audi RS5 2014 4.2 FSI Quattro Pricing and Specs|