Mercedes-AMG C-Class C63 S coupe 2016 review
Tim Robson road tests and reviews the Mercedes-Benz AMG C63 S Coupe with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch.
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Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the 2016 BMW M4 Competition with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
Renaming one of your most famous cars is a pesky business. BMW tripped over itself by calling the M3 Coupe the M4 just before a tremendous excuse for a special edition presented itself - the M3's 30th anniversary (yes, there's still an M3 sedan, don't ruin the joke). Except it's not really a special edition, because it's now a permanent part of the range.
M GmBH are a serious lot, though, so they've given the celebratory M4 a business-like name - Competition. Far from a simple stickers and skirts for anyone with the readies, the Competition has had real work put into it to make it worthy of the name and its great-great-grandfather's legacy.
Unsurprisingly, the M4 Competition is based on the standard M4 and adds $5000 to the price. That means adaptive LED headlights, adaptive M suspension, M heads-up display, keyless entry and start, sat nav, heated and electric front seats, dual-zone climate control, around-vision cameras, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, leather trim, carbon fibre trim pieces, dual-zone climate control, internet connectivity with an inbuilt SIM card, power mirrors with heating and auto wipers and headlights.
BMW's iDrive controls an excellent 16-speaker Harmon Kardon-branded stereo with DAB+. The huge dashtop screen can be split into two so you've got all the info you need, supplementing the reasonably comprehensive dash and heads-up display.
Added to that lot is the Shadowline pack which is limited to gloss black kidney grille, blacked-out side vents and black quad exhaust pipes which are anodised for extra cred). Inside the already excellent front seats have been flung for a pair that BMW claims are weight savers - there's two vertical slots cut into the back that will ventilate your kidneys and leave your back vulnerable - as a colleague discovered - to being poked and prodded by mischievous rear seat occupants.
Finally, there's a set of the most delightfully geeky forged alloy wheels, measuring a gigantic 20 inches in diameter, fitted with 265/30 front tyres and 285/30 rears of sticky Michelin Pilot Sport specification. The extra $5000 also goes to tweaked anti-roll bars, mildly retuned dampers in all three modes as well as suitably adjusted active M-differential and stability control system.
Our car went without the optional carbon ceramic brakes ($15,000), TV tuner ($2250!), or heated steering wheel ($700) but it did come with Sakhir Orange metallic paint ($1840), taking the total from $154,615 to $156,455.
For a four-seater, the M4 is remarkably roomy in every direction except for rear headroom. There's probably the slightest bit extra hat space than there otherwise might have been with the carbon roof in place as there doesn't seem to be very much in the way of bracing or sound deadening.
The front seats won't be everyone's cup of tea as they're quite tight - even with the air let out of the bolsters - but they will certainly hold you in place. There's a pair of cupholders and bottle holders up front, some storage space beneath the climate control panel and a bin under the armrest where your phone can be plugged in. Rear passengers get a shallow tray where the middle seat used to be - it's too narrow for three back there.
The 4 Series Coupe is a fine looking machine - elegant and slight, without a hint of bloat in its design.
Access to the rear is a bit slow, though - an ill-fitting latch on the shoulder of the front seat tips the seat forward, but the electric motor winding the seat towards the screen is slow.
The boot is a useful one, although the narrower aperture does make it slightly less easy to get your gear in than the sedan. Its 370 litres is a full 110 fewer than the sedan, but it's a practical rectangular shape, with the 60/40 split available should the need arise.
The 4 Series Coupe is a fine looking machine - elegant and slight, without a hint of bloat in its design. It's one of BMW's prettiest designs by quite a margin. The M4 pumps things up a bit with deeper front and rear bumpers incorporating various aero enhancements and skirts to match along with wider guards.
The bonnet has M's familiar "power bump", a raised section in the centre of bonnet marking out the extra mumbo beneath.
Most of the Competition's styling tweaks are very lo-fi and, as we've already discussed, are already in the options list. The black bits aren't going to make it particularly easy to pick the car out and for all the world could be aftermarket (rather better quality, though).
The car crouches low over the 20-inch alloys which are the most obvious marker that this is the Competition variant. They're very similar to the rollers on the M4 GTS, the $295,000 race car for the road.
For most of us, the restraint is admirable as anyone who has endured knuckleheads in far less powerful cars (a big hello that Nissan Tiida driver) trying to get you to race. The bright Sakhir Orange of our test car was less than restrained but undeniably pretty, especially in soft winter sunlight.
BMW's now-familiar forced induction 3.0-litre six is crammed beneath a carbon fibre brace. Power is up 14kW to 331kW while torque remains unchanged at a house-towing 550Nm, although more of it is available more of the time through the lower reaches of the rev range.
There are no structural changes to the engine save for a stiffer bed plate to help keep the crankshaft where it belongs.
Fuel economy is slightly worse than the standard car, with a claimed 8.8L/100km. Our time in the M4 saw it deliver 11.1L/100km, however it was regularly stuck in frustrating traffic and also given a fairly hard time with the right foot spending a lot of time close to the firewall.
It's still an impressive result given the power and torque figures.
Get five people in a room to talk cars and there is rarely anything like consensus. Hell, you can get violent disagreements about everything from a 1.0 litre econobox to an earth-shattering hybrid hypercar - that's the way humans are. The thing about the M3/M4's lineage is that, grumbling aside when something new is introduced - six cylinders, eight cylinders, SMG gearbox, turbo six - it's hard to find a consistent poor opinion of the car.
And there's a good reason for this - dynamically, it's the best in class. That's not to say there's clear blue sky between it and the rest, but as a package, the BMW is hard to beat.
The Mercedes might have a rip-snorting V8, the Audi might be all-wheel drive and the Lexus RC F a purist's naturally-aspirated bent eight, the M4 will beat them all and, it must be said, stay with some more exotic machinery when asked.
You can tell when you're behind the wheel that M took a holistic view when building the M4, sharpening the edge as it went, finding a few tenths or hundredths of a star rating in lots of different places.
The engine is all business, without any silly mucking about, to the point of occasionally sounding rough rather than racy.
It's a more playful car than the standard M4.
As you build up speed and confidence - and that isn't hard in this car - it all comes together beautifully. The seemingly too-heavy steering feels just right as you find the apex, it discourages over steering (as opposed to oversteer, but more of that later) and keeps you connected to the black stuff.
The taut ride translates to a front end that follows your every thought as you look through the corners. The throttle is easy to modulate, even in full attack mode (although, to be fair, very jerky on light application at low speed). The transmission - oh, that transmission - is vivid. The gears ram home with a satisfying crackle from the new exhaust, never upsetting the flow with a sudden clutch drop.
It's a more playful car than the standard M4 - if you ever want to know how important BMW's software engineers are to the wellbeing of M car owners, switch to Sport + (which removes the electro-nannies). Then make sure you have plenty of room because if you're not concentrating, you'll be facing the other way. The playfulness extends to something you can do every day - the modified exhaust box makes more noise but still doesn't match the drama of the C63.
In the wet you'll be spinning the rears into third gear, such is the power and torque under your right foot. Switch it all back on and feel the bits and bytes translate to grip and bite, the M differential, black magic if ever there was, helping to turn the car into corners the way a Kardashian turns towards a flashgun.
That M diff can also turn you into a hero, again if you have the room. Sport mode gives the car a bit of attitude as you boot it out of tight corners, a little bit more than the standard car. You get plenty of time to react and if you don't, the stability control will rein it all back in.
And we know the diff will allow some quite amusing tyre-shredding shenanigans. Quite why the tabloid news shows are worried about the Focus RS' drift mode when it's been available to well-heeled hooligans for years in a BMW is anyone's guess.
Six airbags, blind spot sensors, brake assist, ABS, traction and stability controls, lane departure warning, corner braking control, low speed forward collision mitigation and warning.
The 4 Series does not have an ANCAP or EuroNCAP rating. The 3 Series on which it's based has a five-star ANCAP rating.
BMW supplies a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with three years roadside assist into the bargain.
You're out of luck on the fixed price servicing front, however. Like all BMWs, service intervals are condition-based.
The M4 Competition ratchets everything up by percentages. The main point of the tweaks has been upping the aggression rather than making it a straight-line belter - but there's not many M cars in the firm's history that are like that and that's what sets M cars apart.
Thirty years of the M3 have all been pretty good and this celebration is better than most - for a modest increase in price you get modest improvement on an already brilliant car. Real work went into making it a bit more "on" and to remind us there's always more to come from BMW's motorsport division.
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