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The battle of BMW’s M division against Mercedes-AMG has been raging for decades.
The Bavarians have never gone for a power war with the folks from Affalterbach, preferring instead to focus on a power-to-weight ratio formula that sees them maintain the purists' status amongst the hooligan nature of old AMGs. But times have changed, and both these luxury sports cars are at their very respective peaks.
Here we have the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Coupe with carbon ceramic brakes, versus the BMW M4 Competition pack.
The M4 has a seven-speed M double-clutch transmission coupled to its six-cylinder 3.0-litre twin-turbo engine with 331kW of power and 550Nm of torque. BMW claims a 0-100km/h time of 4.0 seconds.
The C 63 S Coupe uses a conventional seven-speed transmission taking control of the mighty 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 with 375kW of power and 700Nm of torque. Its official 0-100km/h time is 3.9 seconds.
Both these cars are bordering on supercar quick, and despite the power and torque differences, the M4 makes up for its deficit with a roughly 230kg weight advantage. In fact, interestingly, the C63 coupe weighs 70kg more than its sedan equivalent!
We previously compared these two on the road, with ex-WRC and current World Rally Cross ace Chris ‘Atko’ Atkinson and yours truly picking the C63 AMG as the winner. We promised we would put these back to back on the track to find out which was truly faster, and so here we are.
The chosen track for this test was Queensland's Lakeside driver training circuit, an ideal track to explore any car’s ability to corner with poise and deal with both camber and surface changes. We made our own addition by forcing the cars through the figure-eight drift corners as well. It had a good mix of straights and corners to even out any inherent advantages either car might have.
Before we set off, we came up with some house rules, which we then subsequently broke. Here at CarAdvice we are all about real consumer advice, so with that in mind, the idea of this track test was to use a pro driver like Atko, but have both these cars with some traction control still on.
For the BMW that meant MDM mode, for the Merc it was Race mode. The reason we decided on this was simple.
These are practical daily cars that still feel at home on a racetrack, but your average owner is seldom going to find themselves going from apex to apex, and even when they do, we would highly recommend leaving some form of traction control on because as fun as it is to believe you’re a pro racing driver, chances are you’re not, and having your $160,000 pride and joy going into a wall just isn’t worth it.
So here is where we ran into problems. The idea was we would do 10 practice laps in each car, let them cool down, then do six laps in each car and take the fastest of each car as the winner. We planned to do this three laps at a time (so that changing track conditions wasn't a huge factor) and each car could cool down in the same manner.
Both cars had come from the manufacturers' track-ready, and the AMG had the benefit of carbon ceramic brakes.
So what do you do, when you are three laps in for each car and the C63 is destroying the M4? This was somewhat unexpected.
Both Atko and I were convinced at the beginning of the day the M4 would have this track test in the bag, after all, this is where the M Division is meant to shine.
We stopped the test and let the cars cool down while we worked out what the problem was. Atko’s feedback was black and white – the BMW M4’s MDM mode simply wasn’t working. The car was cutting power far too often and it was costing precious track time.
We had a decision to make, should we run both cars with everything off for flat out race pace? A qualifying lap where nothing was left on the table? In the interest of fairness we decided to give MDM the flick and go all out.
Well, we let Atko go all out.
Interestingly, it’s worth noting that yours truly also set some lap times and while Atko was willing to turn MDM off and go flat out, I wasn’t, so the AMG was a good second quicker with an amateur behind the wheel, largely because the BMW’s super agile nature required you to be on edge at all times to get the best time, which made this driver rather nervous.
Even so, there was no doubt when going hell for leather, the M4 was a more dynamically capable car. Less weight up the front (and in general) can be felt when coming hot into a corner and turning in, and the level of control you have to position the car is something that plenty of other sports cars would do well to mimic.
On the AMG front, the C 63 S Coupe just has so much torque that it's forgiving if you don’t nail the racing line in and out of a corner perfectly. It just powers through, though it does struggle for grip unless you feed in its might.
It does have a tendency to snap oversteer if you keep pushing and pushing, but somehow, it feels more confidence-inspiring for a weekend warrior than the M4. Not so for Atko.
So, the cars had cooled down and we had three laps left. The M4 had not beaten the C63 on any single of the last three timed laps. And when we mean it hadn’t beaten it, we mean it was a good 0.8sec to a full second behind consistently.
It also had a few issues with launch control, sometimes simply refusing to engage in Brisbane’s mid-30-degree heat. Atko had also reported earlier on the day that he felt the M4 had some power issues at some point during one of the practice laps, but that seemed to rectify itself after a cool down.
We let the AMG go out first with everything off and immediately Atko’s track times were slower. He pulled in after two timed laps and his feedback was the AMG is better off with race mode on as it was beginning to struggle for grip – a side-effect of the big torque monster on the rear tyres. The last recorded lap was back to our original times with race mode on.
Now it was the BMW M4’s turn. With much anticipation, we turned everything off, then made sure it was all off (such is the nature of trying to get the BMW to comply) and let Atko loose. First lap, AMG record shattered. 0.447sec faster.
Second lap, 0.636sec faster, last lap, full qualifying mode and no regard for the rear tyres, the M4 convincingly beat the C 63 S with a 54.308 against 55.080 – a deficit of 0796sec, which is impressive for a track that short.
So there you have it, the M4 is indeed the quicker car around a racetrack. However, we do have to ask the question, at what cost?
It required a world-class pro driver to turn everything off and go flat out to get the best out of it, and Atko’s feedback was clear in the sense that the M4 is definitely the better track car, but you have to work much harder for its potential than the C 63 S.
This was evident in the fact that an amateur (me!), who still spends a great deal of time on racetracks, but isn’t willing to turn all aids off, couldn’t get the best out of it for fear of binning the thing.
This makes the process of picking a winner rather hard. The C63 S already won our road comparison for its smoother ride and effortless torque delivery in daily driving but to be fair, we've given the M4 the win for being a legitimately quicker car on the racetrack.
It’s worth noting the difference in how these two cars must be driven has to weigh in heavily as to which one you end up buying.
If a massive torque monster that can effortlessly pull out of any corner sideways or otherwise has more appeal than a clinical, lighter and more dynamically focused Bavarian Missile, go for the AMG. Otherwise, the M4 is your true calling.
But regardless of which one you end up picking, the beauty of this comparison is both these German sports cars are positively legitimate daily drivers and yet, the pair of them performed almost flawlessly on a scorching racetrack being abused lap after lap, by a professional racing driver.
Whichever car you end up buying, count yourself lucky, as you won’t regret it.
For us amateurs, though, the C63 S would make more sense for an overall daily and occasional track car. Now to see how these two go up against the new Alfa Romeo Giulia QV…