New Mercedes C63 AMG Challenges BMW’s M3—Again

I love BMW cars generally, none more so than the M3, now in its fourth generation and still a mostly unbeatable sports car in the $60-grand range. My compadre tgriffith writes today about how the competition just can’t measure up to the 3 Series.

That is certainly true but hasn’t kept other, especially German, brands from trying. In the M-class performance segment there is Audi’s S5 and, perennially, the Benz C63 AMG, which now comes to do battle in a mostly facelifted form. But its new wet-clutch transmission with four driving modes is very much an improvement over the old 7-speed automatic.

The true sports-car fan will want a manual, however (which the C63 AMG still doesn’t offer, though the M3 does). Last year’s 6.2-liter V8 is still there, pumping out 451 hp (481 if you upgrade) and producing 0-60 mph times of 4.3 seconds. The new car comes to U.S. dealers in the fall; no prices yet.

The C63 AMG doesn’t have quite the perfect balance and handling qualities of the M3, but it has almost everything else, including better power in a straight line, a gorgeous interior, and four doors. It is a true grand-tourer. You can buy a 4-door M3 or a convertible, but why would you do that? The M3’s true bloodline is in the coupe. In the 4-door category, I think the Benz clearly wins.

So basically, Benz is improving its product, albeit gradually, while BMW has made its cars heavier, more expensive and more involved, with electro-tech control systems. This has produced “mixed results,” including problems with the SMG manual transmission in some M3s. Both the M3 and the C63 AMG have gone to big V8 power in an era that demands better efficiency.

Autoweek tells us that “Mercedes-Benz is also working on an AMG version of the upcoming two-door C-class coupe, which is set to get its first public airing at the New York auto show in April.” Now that may be interesting.

Since you just came into a substantial inheritance, you can now afford a C63 AMG (2010 base price, $60,325) or the M3 coupe (2011 base price, $58,900). Which will you buy?

—jgoods

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