The enduring battle for supremacy between Mercedes-AMG and BMW M is one of the automotive industry’s great rivalries. Toe-to-toe, blow-for-blow, Stuttgart and Munich revel in the ongoing slugfest that has given us some of the most exceptional cars of recent years. Of those, perhaps none are more significant than the successive generations of C-class and 3-series-based cars, for it’s into these family cars with genuine everyday practicality that AMG and M engineers rejoice in shoehorning extraordinary powertrains and heavyweight firepower. Compelling and corrupting in equal measure, by pretty much any measure they are all the car you could reasonably want or need.
The battle may be timeworn, but the rules of engagement have changed for 2015, with the latest-generation C63 and M3 featuring downsized turbocharged engines in place of the scintillating, high-revving, larger capacity naturally aspirated motors that previously defined the breed. Fear not, though, for while we mourn the passing of those 8000rpm monsters, there’s plenty to celebrate in this new era, not least increased power, torque and outright pace. This is an arms race apparently without end.
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With the arrival of AMG’s new C63 to UK shores, the temptation to set up a head-to-head contest on some of our favourite roads (and Bedford Autodrome’s West Circuit for some all-out lap times - see the video above) is too great to resist. So we head for North Yorkshire, loping up the A1(M) before spearing off towards Malton, Pickering and Whitby, traversing the network of wide-open roads that drape themselves across this massive moorland landscape. It’s an epic place and one that’s perfect for testing big-hitting hardware like this.
Inevitably a large part of these cars’ appeal over the years has been the way they look. Seeing them together for the first time reveals a surprisingly stark contrast in design. The M3 is sharp and aggressive in styling and stance, all pinched details and chiselled features, with those huge starfish alloys barely contained within the artfully swollen arches. It’s an unmistakable car – even if my poor old brain does still expect an M3 to be a two-door – but if you’re in any doubt as to what’s sitting before you, the quartet of stubby tailpipes jutting from the rear valance are an explicit M-car identifier. It means business, this M3.
The C63 – in ‘S’ spec here – looks less convincing in the role of supersaloon. The shape is a rather unhappy one, strange proportions and a rather amorphous tail lending the car a bit of a dumpy appearance. This despite the best efforts of the squat ride height, optional multi-spoke 19-inch alloys, a suite of up-spec AMG body addenda and a bonnet complete with twin ‘powerdomes’. It’s not an ugly car, but it lacks the toned physique to go with the promised performance.
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