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Mercedes-Benz S-Class


BMW M4

Summary

Mercedes-Benz S-Class

It's only in the running for the title of world's best luxury car. No biggie here, then.

Like Rolex and Concorde, S-Class has become a byword for ultimate, and deserved or not, the Mercedes-Benz defines its segment despite the best efforts of the BMW 7 Series, Audi A8, Lexus LS and (sadly now-defunct) Jaguar XJ, as well as pointing the way forward with new technologies that eventually trickle down to more proletarian models.

Replacing the half-million selling W222 unveiled in 2013, the W223 is the latest in a long line since the first W187 Ponton debuted in 1951, and includes the famous ‘Finnies' and Stroke-8 models that followed immediately afterwards, but it is the 1972 W116 that really set the template.

Now, seven generations in, the 2021 S-Class is all-new again, with progressive safety and interior features that should help keep it Australia's bestselling full-sized upper-luxury sedan.

Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.4L/100km
Seating5 seats

BMW M4

Will this, er, striking new BMW be remembered as the most controversial car released in the 2020s?

It’s quite possible. After all, there isn’t another vehicle in recent memory that gets enthusiast blood boiling so quickly and so often.

Yep, the second-generation BMW M4 risks being remembered for the wrong reasons, and it all has to do with that oversized, eye-catching kidney grille.

Of course, the new M4 is more than a ‘pretty face’ - or pretty remarkable face. In fact, as our test of the Competition coupé proved, it actually resets the benchmark in its segment. Read on.

 

Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency—L/100km
Seating4 seats

Verdict

Mercedes-Benz S-Class8.5/10

Mercedes-Benz set out to restore the S-Class' place amongst the greatest sedans in the world.

In the heavily-optioned, near-$250K-plus S450 as well as the extended S450L at $300K as tested (the sweet spot of the range for now), we reckon the Germans have succeeded, pushing safety, comfort and technology boundaries, in a package that is true to the heritage of the series.

Tax-fuelled sky-high prices will certainly keep the S-Class niche in Australia, but the car is more than good enough to dominate its tiny corner of the upper-large luxury car sphere.

The best new car in the world? We reckon it's highly likely. Mission accomplished, Mercedes.


BMW M48.4/10

No matter what, haters are going to hate, but the new M4 Competition coupe doesn’t need any unsolicited style tips. And let’s not forget, styling is always subjective, so it’s not a matter of being wrong or right.

Anyway, the M4 Competition coupe is a damn good sports car, and it should be recognised as such. In fact, it’s more than damn good; it’s the type of car that you long to drive again.

After all, when you’re behind the wheel, you’re not looking at the exterior. And real enthusiasts will want to drive the M4 Competition, not look at it. And what a truly memorable drive it is.

 

Design

Mercedes-Benz S-Class7/10

Most Mercedes models have followed the Russian Doll-style cookie-cutter styling theme, and the heavy family look continues with the W223.

Still, the flush door handles do add a touch of Tesla-esque modernity, while the elegant silhouette and clean lines are in keeping with the luxury aspirations. Larger in every dimension compared to the old W222, the S450 is some 71mm-longer in wheelbase (3106mm) than before while the LWB's has stretched out by 51mm (3216mm), benefiting proportions as well as interior packaging.

AMG-branded wheels look sporty but – in the S450 at least – they're perhaps a tad too gangster. A set of flush alloys would give it a more-modern and techier appearance, in our opinion.

Overall, however, the S-Class ‘7' possesses the prerequisite richness of design. It isn't as bold and mould-breaking as models like the W116 were back in their day, but the styling is still a success.

By the way, the latest S-Class is the first Mercedes to employ the MRA2 longitudinal platform, which is rich in lightweight steels (50 per cent aluminium), is correspondingly stronger than before but also 60kg lighter.

With a drag co-efficiency rating as low as 0.22Cd on some overseas grades, the W223 is one of the most aerodynamic production vehicles in history.


BMW M49/10

Let’s get straight to the point: the new M4 Competition coupe has a rather large mouth. It’s certainly not for everyone, but that’s the point.

Yes, if you can’t appreciate why the M4 Competition coupé now looks the way it does, then BMW’s designers clearly didn’t have you in mind when they were doing their thing.

Of course, an oversized version of BMW’s signature kidney grille has been seen before, most recently on the X7 upper-large SUV, but the M4 Competition coupé is a very different beast in overall shape and size.

Now, I know I'm in the minority here, but I really appreciate what BMW has attempted here. After all, aside from the similarly styled – and arguably better-looking – M3 Competition sedan, there is literally no mistaking the M4 Competition coupé for anything else.

And for what it’s worth, I think the tall but narrow kidney grille looks its best when fitted with a small, slimline number plate, just like our test vehicle was. The alternative Euro-style plate just doesn’t do it justice.

Anyway, there’s obviously a lot more to the M4 Competition coupé than that face, including its equally adventurous paintwork options, with our test vehicle finished in the searing Sao Paulo Yellow metallic hue. Needless to say, it’s a showstopper.

The rest of the front end is punctuated by the deep side air intakes and sinister adaptive laser headlights, which integrate hexagonal LED daytime running lights. And then there’s the heavily creased bonnet, which is also hard to miss.

Around the side, the M4 Competition coupé has a similar profile to the sixth-generation Ford Mustang, which is its least remarkable angle. It’s still attractive, though, albeit a little too smooth, even with the sculpted carbon-fibre roof panel.

Our test vehicle looked better, thanks to its optional mixed set of black alloy wheels (19/20 inches), which had the also optional gold calipers of the carbon-ceramic brakes tucked behind them. They combine well with the black side skirts and non-functional ‘air breathers’.

At the rear, the M4 Competition coupé is at its absolute best, with the bootlid’s lip spoiler a subtle reminder of its capability, while the sports exhaust system’s quad tailpipes within the chunky diffuser insert are not. Even the LED tail-lights look superb.

Inside, the M4 Competition coupé continues to be a knockout, the level of which depends on how it’s specified, with our test vehicle featuring extended Merino leather upholstery with Alcantara accents, all of which were of the very loud Yas Marina Blue/black variety.

Better yet, carbon-fibre trim is found on the chunky sports steering wheel, dashboard and centre console, with silver accents also used on the latter two to lift the sporty – and premium – ambience, alongside the tri-colour M seatbelts and Anthracite headliner.

Otherwise, the M4 Competition coupé follows the 4 Series formula, with a 10.25-inch touchscreen ‘floating’ atop the centre stack, controlled by the intuitive rotary dial and physical shortcut buttons on the centre console.

With BMW’s Operating System 7.0 on hand, this set-up is one of the best in the business, (intermittent wireless Apple CarPlay dropouts excluded).

A 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is positioned ahead of the driver, with a backwards tachometer the main feature. It does lackthe breadth of functionality of its rivals, but there's also a very large head-up display handily projected onto the windshield.

Practicality

Mercedes-Benz S-Class10/10

For the beginning of our day with the S-Class, we were chauffeured from home to a mansion in Kew, a blue-chip Melbourne suburb. Our heavily-optioned S450L featured most of the aforementioned extras – including the Business Class Package and Rear Entertainment Package – and the experience was predictably, sumptuously memorable.

Reclining individual rear seats with easy-reach tablets, armrests offering access to all multimedia and available climatised and massaging cushions and backrests... we're no longer in our normal ride, Toto.

Yet, all these trinkets and gizmos are mere add-ons, that can turn a stretched Caprice into a flash hen's night carriage if enough money and glitz is thrown at it.

No, the new S-Class must impress in an altogether less tangible and more philosophical manner, involving all the senses, and not just what we see, hear and touch. It must appeal beyond the superficial. Otherwise, it is not a large Mercedes-Benz luxury sedan in the classic manner.

This is a Herculean task for the Stuttgart designers and engineers. By and large, though, the Three-Pointed Star has succeeded in achieving something special.

In its perception of peerless quality and engineering, the W223 is striving to move forward and look back simultaneously to the glory days of the seminal W126 (1980-1991). This is through meshing traditional virtues like solidity and quality materials while dazzling its passengers with technology that is still friendly enough to want to enhance your experience.

You can sink into the soft lounge seats, watch the world pass by silently outside and never be aware of the road underneath or the engine ahead. Double glazing, exquisite and aromatic fabrics and materials and lush tactile surfaces work their magic inside the car, while an airtight and aero body, solid platform, air suspension and a muted yet muscular powertrain all do their thing underneath. The atmosphere is special and rarefied. That's what an S-Class needs to be and that's what is happening in our $299,000 (as tested) S450L.

The same more-or-less applies up front, as the same trim, leather, wood and technology surrounds the driver and passenger. The spectre of the car that is surely The Car of the Last Decade – Tesla's Model S – is evident in the portrait touchscreen and sparse, almost wallflower dashboard design and layout. No big imposing architectures here.

Yet, while the American upstart actually takes stuff away, the S-Class packs the cabin with subtle features that – like when the planes stopped flying last year and the birdsong subsequently returned – only become obvious once the cabin's design simplicity clears all the white noise for you to be in a better frame of mind to enjoy them.   

Take the haptic interface, for example, as it is perhaps the best we've experienced; the sense of well-being garnered from the cumulative effects of profound seat comfort (the massaging function was never switched off), cocooning micro climate environmental control, orchestral levels of audio entertainment and the theatre of light and vision performed by the two available screens; it is an automotive experience like no other. And the eye-tracking 3D-effect navigation set within the electronic instrumentation. No need for cinematic glasses to get the effect. The driving position itself, by the way, is also first class.

Room to stretch and grow for sure, and in every direction. But room for improvement? You betcha.

Your tester had a headache after a little while staring at that woozy 3D map. The central vents – four at the front, two in the rear – look and feel cheap, leaving us mentally redesigning them; they are frightfully out of place here; the carryover column-stalk auto lever should have been binned in 2005. And, even though the digital instruments have a number of options, none are elegant enough for the S-Class. That's an especially subjective criticism, clearly, but one that – in the context of classic Mercedes luxury sedan contenders – is justified given how timeless the Bruno Sacco era of Daimler design was. Look him up, kids.

Still, after a couple of hours behind the wheel, with our senses reset to calm, it is obvious that the S-Class cabin is a unique and wonderful place – as it should be at a cool quarter-of-a-million dollars.

Job done.

PS At 550 litres (20L more than before), the boot is massive and luxurious enough to sleep in.


BMW M48/10

Measuring 4794mm long (with a 2857mm wheelbase), 1887mm wide and 1393mm tall, the M4 Competition coupé is on the large side for a mid-size car, and that means good things for practicality.

For example, the boot’s cargo capacity is pretty good, at 420L, and it can be increased to an undisclosed volume by stowing the 60/40 split-fold rear bench, an action that can be performed by the main storage area’s manual-release latches.

That said, we are dealing with a coupé here, so the boot’s aperture isn’t particularly tall, although its load lip is, making bulky items a challenge. However, two bag hooks and four tie-down points are on hand to help secure loose items.

Things are also mostly good in the second row, where I had a couple of inches of headroom and decent toe-room behind my 184cm driving position, although headroom is basically non-existent, with my head scraping the roof.

Amenities-wise, there are two USB-C ports below the air vents at the rear of the centre console, but no fold-down armrest or cupholders to speak of. And while the rear door bins are a surprise, they’re too small to accommodate bottles.

It’s also worth noting there are two ISOFIX and two top-tether anchorage points for (awkwardly) fitting child seats to the rear bench. The M4 Competition is a four-seater after all.

In the front, there’s a bit going on, with the centre stack’s cubby containing a pair of cupholders, a USB-A port and a wireless smartphone charger, while the central bin is decently sized. It has a USB-C port of its own.

The glovebox is on the smaller side, while the driver-side fold-out cubby is large enough to hide a wallet or some other bits and bobs. And then there are the door bins, which can accommodate a regular bottle each.

But before we move on, it’s worth calling out that the front carbon-fibre bucket seats fitted to our test vehicle aren’t for everyone. When you’re seated, they’re amazingly supportive, but getting in and out of them is a real challenge due to their very high and hard side bolsters.

Price and features

Mercedes-Benz S-Class8/10

Right now, only two S-Class models are available – the S450 from $240,700 plus on-road costs and the 110mm extended-wheelbase S450L (LWB) for another $24,900 on top. Most buyers overwhelmingly opt for the latter.

Despite what the numbers may suggest, both are powered by a 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder turbo petrol engine, delivering 270kW of power and 500Nm of torque to all four wheels via a nine-speed torque-converter automatic. Greater choices are coming later, including an all-electric version known as the EQS.

Almost every conceivable safety item is standard on the S-Class, including world-first rear-seat airbags located behind the front seats in the LWB model, taking the surround-airbag count to 10.

You'll also find route-based Speed Adaptation (adhering to the posted speed limits), Evasive Steering Assist (a sophisticated form of crash mitigation), adaptive cruise control with active stop/go, Active Lane Change Assist that automatically moves the car into the lane you indicate to), Mercedes' PreSafe crash-preparation tech that primes all the safety systems for impact, electronic stability program that encapsulates all the active driver-assist tech, Active Emergency Stop Assist, Autonomous Emergency Braking front and rear (including for cyclists and pedestrians), Traffic Sign Assist, Parking Package with Active Parking Assist and 360-degree camera and tyre pressure monitors.

On the equipment front there is the latest iteration of Mercedes' MBUX multimedia system with (another) world-first 3D display, complementing an OLED central display, powered closing doors, leather upholstery, air suspension, leather upholstery, velour floor mats, a multi-beam LED headlight system with adaptive high beams, heated and folding exterior mirrors, heat and noise-insulating acoustic glass for front side windows, dark privacy glass for rear windows, sunroof, roller sunblinds for rear windows, metallic paint and 20-inch AMG alloy wheels on runflat tyres.

Want cutting-edge multimedia? There's MBUX II's augmented reality for navigation and fingerprint scanner, as well as a more natural-speech Mercedes-Me Connect voice activation with global search.

Plus, predictive navigation with live traffic, parked vehicle locator, vehicle tracking, emergency call, maintenance management and tele-diagnostics, digital radio, Burmester 3D surround-sound system with 15 speakers and 710W amplifier, remote door locking/unlocking, geofencing, speed-fencing, valet parking, head-up display, Smart Phone integration with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, wireless charging, ambient lighting, two-zone climate control, poplar wood trim, electric adjustment for front seats, steering column with memory function, climatised front seats, keyless entry/go with flush-fitting door handles offering hands-free access (including for the electric boot),

Besides the ‘forward facing' airbag for the rear-seat occupants, the S450L also scores electrically adjustable rear seats with memory and automatic rear climate control.

Key options – and the list is massive – include an $8700 Rear Entertainment Package, that brings rear-multimedia access, rear tablets with wireless headsets and rear-seat wireless smart phone charging, an AMG Line pack with a body kit, different alloys and larger front brakes ($6500), Business Class Package that includes aircraft-style reclining rear seating and tray tables ($14,500), Nappa leather ($5000), augmented-reality HUD ($2900), 21-inch wheels ($2000) and four-wheel steering ($2700). There's also a $14,500 Energising Package with contoured seating, heated-everything and massaging seats.

Please keep in mind our test cars featured many such extras. Tick all the boxes and you can add nearly $100,000 to the price of your S-Class.

So, is the S450 good value? Given some of the breakthrough safety and luxury features it offers, it is unique. Too bad the Federal Government's Luxury Car Tax makes them so much more expensive than they need to be.


BMW M48/10

Priced from $159,900 plus on-road costs, the automatic-only Competition currently sits atop the manual-only ‘regular’ variant ($144,990) in the rear-wheel-drive M4 coupé range, with xDrive all-wheel-drive and convertible options set to become available in the future.

Either way, the second-generation M4 Competition coupé is $3371 dearer than its predecessor, although buyers are compensated with a much longer list of standard equipment, including metallic paintwork, dusk-sensing lights, adaptive laser headlights, LED daytime running lights and tail-lights, rain-sensing wipers, a mixed set of alloy wheels (18/19 inches), power-folding side mirrors with heating, keyless entry, rear privacy glass and a power-operated bootlid.

Inside, a 10.25-inch touchscreen multimedia system, satellite navigation with live traffic, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, digital radio, a 464W Harman Kardon surround-sound system with 16 speakers, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a head-up display, push-button start, a wireless smartphone charger, power-adjustable front sports seats with heating, three-zone climate control, extended Merino leather upholstery, carbon-fibre trim and ambient lighting.

Being a BMW, our test vehicle was fitted with a number of options, including remote engine start ($690), BMW Drive Recorder ($390), a mixed set of black alloy wheels (19/20 inches) with Michelin Sport Cup 2 tyres ($2000), and the $26,000 M Carbon package (carbon-ceramic brakes, carbon-fibre exterior trim and front carbon-fibre bucket seats), taking the price as tested to $188,980.

For reference, the M4 Competition coupé goes tyre to tyre with the Mercedes-AMG C63 S coupé ($173,500), Audi RS 5 coupé ($150,900) and Lexus RC F ($135,636). It’s better value than the former and has the latter two covered with its next-level performance.

Engine & trans

Mercedes-Benz S-Class9/10

Where are the V8s?

Right now, the only W223 you can buy is powered by an all-new 2999cc 3.0-litre in-line direct-injection six-cylinder turbo petrol engine dubbed the M256, complete with double overhead cams, an electric compressor intercooler and assistance from a 48-volt mild hybrid system and integrated starter-generator, adding 16kW and 250Nm to the 270kW of power at 6100rpm and 500Nm of torque from 1600-4500rpm.

The 9G-Tronic torque-converter automatic transmission and 4Matic all-wheel drive system combination is a first for the S-Class in Australia.

Top speed is limited to 250km/h, while the 0-100km/h sprint-time takes just 5.1 seconds in both models. Impressive for a two-tonne-plus luxury limo.


BMW M410/10

The M4 Competition coupé is motivated by a cracking new 3.0-litre twin-turbo inline six-cylinder petrol engine, which is codenamed S58.

With a huge 375kW of peak power at 6250rpm and an even bigger 650Nm of maximum torque from 2750-5500rpm, the S58 is a significant 44kW and 100Nm more potent than its S55 predecessor.

A versatile eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission (with paddle-shifters) is also new and replaces the previous seven-speed dual-clutch unit.

And no, there is no six-speed manual option for the M4 Competition coupé any more, it's now standard only in the regular M4 coupé, which ‘only’ punches out 353kW and 550Nm.

That said, both variants are still rear-wheel drive, with the M4 Competition coupé now sprinting from a standstill to 100km/h in a claimed 3.9 seconds, making it 0.1s quicker than before. For reference, the regular M4 coupe takes 4.2s.

Fuel consumption

Mercedes-Benz S-Class7/10

With the aid of the mild-hybrid system, the S450 returned a combined average of an impressive 8.2 litres per 100km, which translates to 187 grams of carbon dioxide emissions per kilometre. 95 RON premium unleaded (or higher) is recommended. In the urban run it consumes 11.3L/100km (11.5 for S450L), and just 6.4L/100km (6.5 for S450L) in the extra-urban result.

At 76 litres, the fuel tank will allow a combined average range of about 927km between refills.


BMW M47/10

The M4 Competition coupé’s fuel consumption on the combined-cycle test (ADR 81/02) is 10.2L/100km, while its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are 234g/km. Both returns are more than respectable when you consider the level of performance on offer.

That said, in our real-world testing, we averaged 14.1/100km over 387km of driving, with plenty of time in bumper-to-bumper traffic. And if that wasn’t the case, the M4 Competition coupé was being driven with ‘vigour’, so a much better return is possible.

For reference, the M4 Competition coupé’s 59L fuel tank takes more expensive 98RON premium petrol at minimum, but that’s no surprise.

Driving

Mercedes-Benz S-Class10/10

In former times, as the Germans say, a ‘450' on the boot indicated V8 power. In the W116 S-Class era it was one of the world's most evocative badges when ‘SEL' was also attached.

As mentioned earlier, though, it's the M256 3.0-litre turbo-petrol with a 48-volt ‘mild hybrid' electrical system that's doing the driving, to all four wheels. The real V8 W223 will probably surface later this year or in early 2022 with the S580L flagship. Bring it on.

This is not to say that S450 isn't good enough. With that electrified assistance, the blown straight six is smooth and swift off the line and rapid as the auto seamlessly steps up through all nine gears. Because it's so hushed and refined, it doesn't feel 5.1s to 100 clicks quick, but watching the speedo says otherwise – acceleration is assertive and strong right up way past the legal speed limit.

All that's missing is the burbling soundtrack of a classic Benz bent-eight. Oh well. Outstanding economy is a price we're literally willing to pay in lieu.

Even more impressive is the S450's ability to hustle along mountain roads like an overgrown sports sedan.

Now, for Australia, all S-Classes are fitted standard with an adaptive ‘Airmatic' air-suspension set-up, including air springs and self-levelling tech. In Comfort up to 60km/h, the ride height can be raised by 30mm, or lowered by 10mm under the standard 130mm baseline in Sport at any velocity, while in Sport+ it falls another 17mm.

With that in mind, yes, the standard air suspension performs a magnificent job smothering out most surface imperfections around town. Yet its real other party trick is to tighten up the chassis when corners get interesting and Sport mode is selected. Aided by progressively weighted and reassuringly responsive steering, the Mercedes tips into turns with precision and poise, slicing through with virtually no discernible body lean or understeer.

Now, we're not talking a leisurely drive on rural highways here, but Healesville's famous Chum Creek Road, where even a Porsche Cayman would feel like it's had a strenuous dynamic workout. The S-Class can be hurried along with confidence and finesse, displaying outstanding handling and roadholding for a 5.2-metre long limo. And the fact that the ride quality only suffers marginally when the red horns are out is all the more remarkable.

Back in the cut-and-thrust of inner-city peak-hour traffic, the Benz in Comfort mode continued to reveal its driver-orientated yet passenger-focused twin-personalities, zipping in and out of gaps while remaining comfy and composed inside.

Only when parking in tight spots are you truly aware that the W223 is longer than a Mazda CX-9. The optional four-wheel-steering system is claimed to slash the turning circle to A-Class hatchback levels. 10.9 metres is the claim.

The 2021 S-Class never ceases to amaze and delight.


BMW M49/10

The new M4 Competition coupé is an absolute beast. Plain and simple.

In fact, it’s such a beast that how well you can harness its performance on public roads is very dependent on how it’s specified.

Our test vehicle was fitted the optional Michelin Sport Cup 2 tyres and carbon-ceramic brakes, both of which are usually the reserve of track superstars.

And although we’re yet to experience it in such a setting, there’s no denying the M4 Competition coupé would be at home on a circuit, but as a daily driver, these options are a step or two too far.

Before we explain why, it’s important to first acknowledge what makes the M4 Competition coupé so beastly in the first place.

The new 3.0-litre twin-turbo inline six-cylinder engine is an undeniable powerhouse, so much so that it’s hard to extract its full potential without handing over your licence in the process.

But when you do get to wring it out in first and second gear, it’s an absolute delight, with a rush of low-end torque preceding a power punch that even Iron Mike Tyson would be proud of.

For that reason, we rarely bothered with anything but the S58’s Sport Plus mode, because the temptation to have it all is far too great.

The reason why that’s so easy to do is because the eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission’s three settings are independent, meaning the M4 Competition coupé won’t always be looking to hold onto the lower gears if you don’t want it to.

The unit itself is predictably charming, with the difference in quickness between this new auto and its dual-clutch predecessor almost negligible. And yes, the advantage of the swap is buttery smooth gear changes, with low-speed jerkiness now a distant memory.

And when you are firing through the ratios, the booming sports exhaust system comes to the fore. Pleasingly, it’s ready to go every time the ignition is switched on, but to enjoy maximum crackles and pop on the overrun, the S58 needs to be in its Sport Plus mode.

Handling-wise, the M4 Competition coupé is one of those sports cars that begs to be driven harder and harder every time you attack a corner as it pushes its 1725kg kerb weight through bends with playful poise.

While I really enjoy the rear-wheel-drive dynamics, I still can’t help but wonder what the rear-biased xDrive all-wheel-drive version will be like when it launches, but that will have to wait for another day.

In the meantime, traction can be the M4 Competition coupé’s biggest issue, with the operative word being can. Yep, those Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 can be a handful in mixed conditions, be it in a straight line or through the twisty stuff.

Don’t get us wrong, semi-slicks are amazing when they’re hot and being used on a dry surface, but on a cold or wet day, they struggle to grip when the throttle is liberally applied, even with the rear limited-slip differential doing its best work.

For that reason, we’d be sticking with the standard Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tyres, which serve up the level of adhesion you’d hope for in everyday driving – unless you’re a weekend warrior.

In fact, if you are thinking about tracking the M4 Competition coupé, a lap-timer is built in, while a drift analyser will help you improve your slip angle and drift time if you’re lucky enough to find yourself on a skidpan, but we digress.

While we’re talking about our test vehicle’s options, it’s worth pointing out it’s a similar story with the carbon-ceramic brakes. Again, they’re mega on a track day, but they are overkill when you’re just out and about on public roads.

The standard steel brakes would be my pick. They’re powerful in their own right and still have two settings for the pedal feel, with the progressiveness of Comfort getting our vote.

Speaking of the word comfort, the M4 Competition coupé has come along in leaps and bounds when it comes to ride quality. Previously, it was unbearably stiff, but now it’s relatively comfortable.

Yep, the sports suspension is tuned superbly, doing its best to deliver a pleasant experience. Simply put, high-frequency bumps are dealt with firmly but quickly, while broken surfaces are also met with composure.

Of course, the adaptive dampers on hand are working their magic in the background, with the Comfort setting understandably preferred, although the Sport and Sport Plus alternatives aren’t that jarring when you need that little bit of extra body control.

The speed-sensitive electric power steering is yet another notch in the M4 Competition coupé’s belt, which is at its best in its Comfort setting, offering a nice amount of weight while being very direct.

Naturally, this set-up can become heavier in Sport and heavier again in Sport Plus if that’s your thing. Either way, feel is rather good. Yep, the M4 Competition coupé is good at communication – and many, many other things.

Safety

Mercedes-Benz S-Class10/10

The W223 S-Class has not been crash-tested yet by ANCAP or European affiliate EuroNCAP, so does not have a star rating. However, Mercedes-Benz claims it has striven to create one of the safety vehicles on the planet. Who are we to argue?

Almost every conceivable safety item is standard on the S-Class, including world-first rear-seat airbags located behind the front seats in the LWB model, taking the surround-airbag count to 10.

You'll also find route-based Speed Adaptation (adhering to the posted speed limits), Evasive Steering Assist (a sophisticated form of crash mitigation), adaptive cruise control with active stop/go, Active Lane Change Assist that automatically moves the car into the lane you indicate to), Mercedes' PreSafe crash-preparation tech that primes all the safety systems for impact, electronic stability program that encapsulates all the active driver-assist tech, Active Emergency Stop Assist, Autonomous Emergency Braking front and rear (including for cyclists and pedestrians, at speeds from 7km/h to over 200km/h), Traffic Sign Assist, Parking Package with Active Parking Assist and 360-degree camera and tyre pressure monitors.

The Active Lane Keeping Assist works in a speed range of between 60km/h and 250km/h while Active Steer Assist helps the driver follow the lane at speeds of up to 210km/h.


BMW M49/10

Neither ANCAP nor its European counterpart, Euro NCAP, have given the M4 Competition coupé a safety rating yet.

That said, its advanced driver-assist systems do extend to front autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with intersection assist and pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep and steering assist (including emergency), adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, road-sign recognition, high-beam assist, active blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert, Reversing Assist, park assist, rear AEB, surround-view cameras, front and rear parking sensors, and tyre-pressure monitoring.

Other standard safety equipment includes six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), anti-skid brakes (ABS), brake assist and the usual electronic stability and traction control systems, with the latter coming with 10 stages.

Ownership

Mercedes-Benz S-Class7/10

Unlike many luxury brands that persist with a sub-par three-year warranty, Mercedes-Benz offers a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

Intervals are every year or 25,000km, with a capped price service plan starting at $800 for the first year, $1200 for the second year and $1400 for the third year, totalling $3400. Alternatively, there is a Service Plan starting at $2700 for the first three years (saving $700 from the normal capped-price service plan), $3600 for four years and $5400 for five years.


BMW M47/10

As with all BMW models, the M4 Competition coupé comes with a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is two years behind the premium standard set by Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Land Rover, Jaguar and Genesis.

That said, three years of roadside assistance is also included with the M4 Competition, which has service intervals of every 12 months or 15,000km (whichever comes first).

To sweeten the deal, five-year/80,000km capped-price servicing plans are available from $3810, or $762 per visit, which is fairly reasonable, all things considered.