Ah, the BMW M3 versus the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S. We know, this one's long overdue. But it's always been impossible to get these gorgeous Germans to the same place at the same time, until now. Unfortunately, both of them weren't in the best of shape when we got them, and even more unfortunate is the fact that we're in Delhi, and don't have access to the BIC! So we decided to make the most of what we've got and hit the streets as early as possible to dodge the Delhi traffic.
Rohit and I were greeted by the beautiful maroon C 63 S when we landed -- it was so sleek, so elegant and so...unnoticed? The Merc looks so sleeper than barely anyone even gave it a second glance. Then the M3 arrived and started turning heads. Yes, it was in an attention-seeking Yas Marina blue, but it had an unmistakably sportscar design with its flared wheel arches, carbon-fibre roof, aggressive-looking bumpers and aerodynamic wing mirrors. In comparison, the C 63 S, despite sitting quite low and featuring AMG bumpers with carbon-fibre elements, requires a keen eye to tell the difference from a standard C-Class.
The Mercedes-AMG C 63's interior, even with the huge carbon-fibre panel, is a bit dull
Which one do I like? Well, the detailing on both is gorgeous, and the C 63's low-profile design does fit the nature of these semi-sleeper performance saloons. The M3, on the other hand, stands out like a me in posh Delhi. And I love it. I love how loud the design is and even in a less shouty colour, you can't mistake it for a run-of-the-mill 3 Series. Every time I drove the C 63, I just couldn't take my eyes off the M3. And every time I was in the M3, I found it hard to take my eyes off its interior.
The interior of the M3 is so asymmetrical and driver centric that it's very interesting and cool
In a way, the M3 brings in the same cool and sporty character to the cabin as well. There's plenty going on, with all the interesting shapes and designs. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the overall dashboard design doesn't look very German because of all those shapes. But that's not really a bad thing in my books. Because the C 63's cabin is quintessentially German, and while it does look very premium and elegant, it also looks a little boring next to the M3. The centre console's layout, even with the liberal use of carbon-fibre trims, is too similar to almost every other modern Mercedes, and so doesn't feel very special. That said, it does feel a little more premium than the Beemer. But only a little bit. For instance, the C 63 gets an electrically adjustable tilt/telescopic steering, while in the M3, you'll have to do it manually.
The straight-6 engine might not sound as nice as the Merc's V8, but boy, is it a riot!
But there are certain primitive" technologies in the Beemer that one can enjoy, like the manual handbrake. Then again, you don't really need to yank it while going around a corner because you can just as easily get the rear to step out by just mashing the throttle. The 3.0-litre twin-turbo flat-6 engine puts out 431PS from 5,500-7,300rpm and 550Nm of torque from 1,850-5,500rpm, and compared to the 510PS and 700Nm that the Merc's 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, the Beemer does look short-handed on paper. But with a bigger engine comes more weight. The result? The M3's claimed 0-100kmph time is just 0.1s slower than the C 63's four seconds!
The M3 comes with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission which is lighting quick and, I'll have to admit, as good as, if not better, than the VW Group's DSG. The gearbox has three modes that alter how aggressively gearshifts take place. For instance, in the first mode, gearshifts are a bit slower and smoother whereas in the third mode, it's violent and super quick. So violent, in fact, that it literally lurches forward with every upshift. It's just about violent enough to keep you more entertained than scared. The C 63 S, on the other hand, has a 7-speed multi-clutch transmission, which is super creamy. Gearshifts are very quick and smooth, which makes the C 63 feel a bit docile in comparison.
The C 63 S is absolutely gorgeous...to the keen eye
Just a bit though. Because the second you step on the throttle you're shoved back in your seat, and the next thing you know, you're doing very, very illegal speeds. Power delivery is very linear and while I did sometimes miss the violence of the M3, I also enjoyed the C 63's calm cruising capabilities. But there's one more thing I thoroughly enjoyed in the Merc -- the V8 soundtrack. Everyone loves a V8 roar, and boy, does the Merc have a loud one. Switch on the sports exhaust system, and you simply won't want to lift your foot off the accelerator till you hear those pops and crackles or till you almost hit something on the road. It sounds like a proper German muscle car. The M3, on the other hand, with its 6-cylinder engine is certainly loud, but it sounds more Japanese tuner than German muscle. That's not a bad thing, because the way it sounds, especially near the redline, is absolutely exhilarating!
Only adding to that exhilaration is how focussed the car is. Everything about the M3 feels oh-so-precise and tight - just a like sportscar should feel. The electrically assisted steering is very responsive and the weighting feels very well judged - almost like in a good hydraulically assisted unit. Switch to Sport and Sport+ modes and the adjustable suspension firms up further from an already firm set-up, which allows the car to dart in and out or corners absolutely flat! It gives you the confidence to really push the car around bends and not soil yourself looking at the speeds you're carrying.
The C 63 stays just as flat around the corner when you push it, but it just didn't leave as wide a grin on my face as the M3 did. There is certainly an immense amount of grip, and the electric steering is sharp, responsive and gives very good feedback. But it lacks a certain crispness in the way it feels, compared to the M3. I'm not sure how to put it in words, because the two cars are very, very good on their own when it comes to corner carving. But when you drive them back to back on a set of twisties, it's in the M3 that you want to get back and do it all over again.
What you'd rather do in the C 63, though, is drive everywhere else. Compared to the M3, the Merc's damping feels a little more supple and comfortable in Comfort mode, to drive around the pot-holed Indian roads. And while it might look very low, it actually managed to cross all the speed breakers we encountered around the city without breaking a sweat. In the Beemer, however, we had to crisscross over all of them. And when we didn't have the space to do that, it was always butt-clenching moment which, more often than not, ended up with a painful scrape. The steering too, in Comfort mode, was heavier to use around the city compared to the Merc's set-up. Essentially, the C 63 still has some of those plush, comfortable characteristics you'd expect of a Mercedes.
But has that diluted the mighty AMG name? Maybe just a little bit. From what Rohit says, the previous-gen C 63 was a maniac -- a maniac he was in love with, head over heels. This one, he says, is little softer -- a little more sane. And that's something he didn't expect from the hardcore performance brand. The M3, on the other hand, is as focussed as ever. It's sharp, it's nimble and a little bit uncomfortable, just like a proper sportscar should be. It sticks true to BMW's unofficial motto, Drivers before all else."
But all that said, I still didn't know how to pick a winner between the two - both are superfast, super fun and super beautiful. Each had its own set of benefits that made up for its flaws. It was only in the last couple of hours that we spent with these cars, that I was able to make up my mind. We drove them through some beautiful underpasses with smooth, spotless roads. And those last few hours were the most memorable ones - very few things beat the sensation of driving really loud, really fast cars through a series of tunnels.
Blasting through them took me back to my childhood days, playing Need For Speed on my computer. And that gave me an idea. If I were to get back in my tiny size-five shoes and had to pick between these two cars in NFS, which one would it be? I wouldn't have cared about practicality or subtlety. I would have wanted the fastest, sharpest, meanest looking thing. I would have wanted the M3, and in that loud Yas Marina blue. And given the choice, and the bank balance, I'd still pick the M3. After all, what is buying a super expensive sportscar if not living a childhood fantasy?