by: Aman Sundher
For many years I’ve been spoon-fed the hype that the BMW M3 is for purists and the Mercedes-Benz C63 is for hooligans. The M3 has always been portrayed as the “gentleman’s race car”. Posting faster lap times around the Nurburgring, comfortable when it needed to be, and with a true 6-speed manual transmission, the M3 seems to have it all. At least that’s what I thought.
Earlier this year, I purchased a low mileage 2008 BMW M3 4 door in black. What a gorgeous car! I spent hours admiring it: beautiful lines, black trim, dark wheels, and the hood bulge emphasized the M3’s classy, yet masculine styling. The interior was elegant, but simple. Everything was laid out in typical BMW fashion, with the traditional orange radio display and stainless dash panel insert. The driving position was perfect, the gearshift felt amazing, and the thick M steering wheel didn’t disappoint. However, the quality of the plastic trim did. The buttons around the gearshift were loose and fragile and the steering wheel adjustment lever broke off in the first week. Regardless, I bought this car for the drive, so let’s get to it.
At the first opportunity, I took the car out for a shakedown run to Squamish. Right away I noticed the wonderfully heavy and direct steering wheel feel. As the car warmed up, I hit the sport button and turned traction control off. Rolling in 3rd gear at 2500rpm, I put my foot to the floor…and nothing?! The rev’s climbed slowly to 5500rpm and then all of a sudden, someone hit the “on” switch and the car burst into life. From 5500rpm to 8200rpm, the M3 is an absolute maniac and an utter joy to drive on the ragged edge up and down the Sea to Sky Highway. Unfortunately, driving around at anything below 5500rpm and you may as well be driving a Corolla. In town, the car was frustratingly slow and revving the engine over 5500rpm at 40-60kph is pretty embarrassing. The more I drove the M3, the more I found myself critiquing everything about it. From the way small bumps in the road shattering my spine, to the clutch dampening system that changed the friction point every time you pressed the clutch pedal. Every single person I let drive the car stalled it at least twice, thanks to that infuriating feature. My entire perception of the BMW M3 has been crushed.
A month later, I happened to drive by a Mercedes dealership and saw a white 2012 Mercedes Benz C63 sitting out front in the display. The aggressive stance, massive brake calipers, hood ridges and quad pipes gave the C63 a menacing profile. I couldn’t help but take it for a test drive. Within just three blocks, I was sold on the car. The interior is on a completely different level. Plush leather, heavily bolstered sport seats and the best dash layout I’d seen in a long time. Every vent, switch and button has a nice heavy tactile feel to it. The back seats had a significant amount of leg room as well. I can now fit a 6’1 adult in the back seat as opposed an adult with no legs in the M3. That being said, the interior isn’t perfect. The auto wipers turn on whenever they want to, regardless of the weather. And the Bluetooth audio reception doesn’t work if the phone is in your pocket, which seems a bit redundant. But all these nuances didn’t matter once I drove the car.
As soon as you push the start button, the C63 engine roars to life. The cold start exhaust note on the car is absolutely electric. It’s the kind of sound that gives goosebumps to car enthusiasts and race car drivers alike. Driving around in comfort mode is exactly that, comfortable. It’s quiet and refined, but still very intimidating. The C63 devours highways with ease, and if you’re not careful, you’ll quickly find yourself with an excessive speeding ticket. It’s not uncommon to be well over the speed limit without even noticing it. Put the C63 into Sport mode and S+ or M and you’ve quite literally unleashed the beast. The exhaust takes on a snarling popping tone with flames bursting out the tailpipes on the over run. The car surges forward with the slightest press of the accelerator and hits the rev limiter in the blink of an eye. The only words I can think of to describe the experience is race-car like exhilaration. Turn the traction control off and you will obliterate your tires, literally and figuratively. It was the most fun I’ve had in a long time and the tires probably had it coming. The torque seems like it peaks at idle, and never stops. It doesn’t matter what mode you are in, when you leave a stop light, there is always more than enough power to put a smile on your face and kick the back end out.
I’ve owned over 20 cars in my life, everything from classic muscle cars to Porsches. I have always been a little biased towards BMW and one of my favorite cars of all time was my 1991 BMW M5. That being said, what Mercedes has done here has completely changed my perception of what a German Saloon can be. The C63 is the perfect blend of power, luxury and style. I’ve owned one for 6 months now, and it’s just as exciting to me now as it was when I first drove it. I guarantee this car will put a smile on your face.