In this edition of the BIC test, we bring you two bright red sedans that have the performance to match their flaming paint jobs.
What we have here are two vehicles that come from warring factions in the heartland of Germany – the three-pointed star from Stuttgart and the blue-and-white propeller 200 kilometers further south from Munich. And yet this is not a comparison test – not by any stretch!
You see, the Mercedes will set you back upwards of 80 lakhs, while the BMW will run you just north of 40 lakhs. The main reason for this discrepancy is the small matter of 4 litres of engine displacement – i.e. the C63 comes ready to halt the rotation of the Earth with a monstrous, naturally aspirated 6.2 litre V8 that puts out a thunderous 450 horsepower, while the 328i has a decidedly smaller 2.0 litre turbocharged 4 cylinder unit that produces (a not inconsiderable) 241horses. As a result, the C63 demands a racetrack for a playground, while the 328 will be happy during your daily commute as well. But is it also suited to the track?
In our last BIC test, we proved that the latest (6th generation) BMW 3 series has lost none of its sports sedan roots. In fact, if anything, BMW has moved the goal posts even further and created a car that’s still every bit as fun to drive, while being far more luxurious than before. But that was the 320d, and while its 2.0 litre diesel engine produced a respectable 181bhp, it was a little short of breath in the upper reaches of its rev range. What we have here is the 328i, powered by BMW’s brand new Twin Power four cylinder engine – it’s latest generation of light and powerful petrol units.
Of course, the only way of generating 241 horses from a 2.0 litre engine is to slap on a turbocharger. But traditional turbos have lag. You see, a turbo uses exhaust gases to spin a turbine, which in turn force feeds air back into the combustion chamber for a bigger explosion and more power. So, one way of reducing lag is to have the exhaust stream from cylinders 1 and 4 and the exhaust stream from cylinders 2 and 3 follow separate spiral paths to the turbine wheel – which is the precise mechanics that BMW employs in its Twin Power turbo to virtually eliminate lag completely. Proof of that is the 350Nm of torque that’s generated from as low down as 1,250rpm.
This not only makes the BMW’s engine very efficient, but also quite compact as well. So much so that the engine appears to be mounted well behind the center line of the front axles – something that will aid turn-in and handling on the circuit no doubt. The first thing you notice when pulling out of the pit lane of the BIC in the 328i is the sheer grunt provided from the engine. Engage Sport-Plus via the Dynamic Drive and slot the gear lever into Manual, and you’re rewarded with an endless surge of power from the 2.0 litre engine. Not only is the power delivery surprisingly linear, it’s also extremely smooth all the way to the 7,000-plus rpm redline. The only department in which it falls short, however, is the soundtrack. The direct injection sounds almost like a diesel clatter, and the exhaust note is simply too muted for a sports sedan. But this is only a problem at idle – at speed on the track you’re simply having too much fun to notice.
The electromechanical steering in the 328i is another surprise. Any worries about doing away with a traditional hydraulic power steering system are dispelled the minute you turn the inch-perfect steering on the 328. In fact, it uses a variable sport steering system that feels a lot more responsive than the 320d. Club that with an 8-speed gearbox that’s amazingly quick as well as smooth, and you’ve got a machine that responds to your every command. Granted, the gearbox may not be quite as effective as a double-clutch unit on track, but it makes up for that by being lighter and virtually as quick to swap cogs. The seats in this Sport trim BMW hug you in place – in fact, it’s one of the most comfortable thrones in cardom – allowing the perfect mix of ingredients to explore the upper limits of the performance envelope on a Grand Prix circuit. The end result is a car that brakes on a dime, turns in perfectly, and powers out with the tail in a controllable slide all day long. What more could you ask for from a sports sedan?
Well, 450 horses I suppose – not to mention a soundtrack that could make Louis Armstrong sound like he ought to be in boy band. That’s what the C63 brings to the table. All you have to do to fall completely head-over-heels in love with this car is leave it in Park and just provoke the throttle pedal with the slightest prod. The resulting fury that emanates from the quad exhaust is enough to get a starving man-eating Bengal tiger to concede defeat. So much so that it’s almost hard to concentrate on your lines on track because you’re so busy savouring the crackle and pop of the exhaust on the overrun.
This Mercedes, like the BMW, simply flatters you on track. Take the liberty of turning off the traction control on the C63, however, and you’d better be sure of your reflexes – because armfuls of immediate opposite lock are the order to the day if you’re even slightly liberal with the throttle at corner exit. But again, the C63 has such a compliant chassis that you can recover from the most lurid slides imaginable. The power from the engine takes center stage and everything else just works around it. The seven speed gearbox does the job, and the car corners in a manner that’s completely flat and composed no matter what the (terrifying) pace.
At the end of our session, we could have actually lapped both cars a little quicker than we did. The BMW encourages you to push to the limit – and beyond – so much that you’re constantly controlling the urge to power slide out of corners. So, a little more track time and a cleaner lap would have seen us drop more than a few tenths at the very least. The C63 was struggling on the brakes slightly because the car had been on track just a day prior for an AMG event, and this meant I had to brake a little early for most corners. That being said, the one characteristic both cars share is how amazingly comfortable they make you feel on track. You can always trust both cars to respond predictably, which allows you to really push the boundaries without worrying about putting a hole in the Armco.
The BMW sets a new benchmark for a sports sedan, while the Mercedes blurs the scenery with such ease that it truly lives up to its AMG tag. With cars like these, you can only wish for unlimited track time and an endless supply of premium petrol. If only our dreams were slightly more attainable...
[tab title="Mercede s-Benz C63 AMG"]
Engine: 6,208cc / V8 / 32 Valves
Transmission: 7-speed Automatic / Rear Wheel Drive
Power: 451bhp @ 6800rpm
Torque: 600Nm @ 5000rpm
Acceleration: 0-100km/h – 4.5 seconds
Price: Rs. 79.90 LAKHS (EX-SHO WROOM , Delhi)
[tab title="BMW 328i"]
Engine: 1,997CC / 4 CYLI NDERS / 16 VAL VES / Direct In jection / Tw inPower Turbo
Transmission: 8-SPEED Automatic / REAR -WHEEL DRIVE
Power: 241BH P @ 5000-6500 RPM
Torque: 350NM @ 1250-4800RPM
Acceleration: (0-100km/h) 6.1 seconds
Price: Rs. 37.90 LAKHS (EX-SHO WROOM , Delhi)
Mercede s-Benz C63 AMG
Lap Time: 2:22.73 | Top Speed: 231.1 (Km/H)
Lap Time: 2:36.20 | Top Speed: 195.2 (Km/H)
Lap Time: 2:46.49 | Top Speed: 175.4 (Km/H)