Ah, the executive coupe. Designed for the man-about-town that needs to cruise the streets between meetings, but wants a bit of style while doing it. Not for him the four doors of the family saloon.
For some, the ultimate expression of this dynamic desire comes with an extra letter. Whether it’s M or AMG, the extra digits at the end of the car’s name signifies serious performance desire. These are the best compact executive coupes from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, providing business transport during the wheel and the power to thrash at the weekends. But how do they compare?
The C63 AMG Coupe is one of the newest luxury power coupes on the block. Based on the latest generation of C-Class it was unleashed by AMG last year with a 451bhp 6.2-litre V8 powering the rear wheels. But our version has the optional AMG Performance Package (at a cost of an extra $7033), which ups the available power to 480bhp.
But how does it compare to the historical daddy? The E92 BMW M3 Coupe has been around for five years now, but it’s still well loved. With 414bhp from its 4.0-litre V8, it’s giving away grunt to the C63, but it’s not exactly slow. We’re intrigued to see how it matches up with the bruiser from Affalterbach.
Our test M3 has been borrowed from friendly UAE BMW dealer Abu Dhabi Motors. It sits resplendent in a deep blue metallic paint with a carbon spoiler and roof specified. It’s not quite factory standard however – ADM has added an Akrapovic exhaust that gives the car a deep rasping note and a crackle on the overrun, although it doesn’t add much, if any power.
Looks-wise, the M3 has aged well. It might be approaching its pension in car years, but it’s still a smooth-looking machine, with subtle arches housing classic BMW wheels and smooth lines. Bulging vents on the bonnet add muscle to the looks. The interior is starting to feel a little plasticky for 2012, although it’s well laid out, with all the necessary power and electronic aid controls handily placed on the wheel and next to the driver on the transmission tunnel.
I’m less sure about the looks of the C63. The front is great – contemporary and dynamic, but the rear doesn’t quite sit right. It looks bulky at the back compared to the BMW, and I can’t help feeling that it was designed by simply restyling the derriere once the saloon’s rear doors had been whipped away. The M3 looks more holistic in comparison. But the AMG still has some presence. Compared to the standard See-Coop it’s wider, beefier. The arches are more pronounced, the bumper flares more aggressive. The AMG Performance Package also brings with it big composite front brake discs with red calipers, and a carbon spoiler on the boot lid. There’s no mistaking its intentions.
The day’s test comprises a hack across country accompanied by photographer Phil and willing assistant James. We’ll crawl out of Dubai’s congested streets and head inland towards the mountains, where rock replaces sand and the wide highways become fast, sweeping single lane roads.
I take the Mercedes first and settle into its impressively cossetting sports seats, hugged into place by the wide base and side bolsters. The wheel ahead of me – specific to cars with the AMG Performance Package – is a kind of angular oval shape; round at the sides but flattened top and bottom, with Alcantara upholstry on the grip area and leather elsewhere. So far, so sporty. Unusually these days, the car requires the input of a key rather than the press of a button, so a twist of the plastic fob in the dash fires up the big V8 up front. It catches with a hard-edged bark and settles into a threatening, naturally aspirated murmur. Some may have expected the newer, more efficient 5.5-litre, twin-turbo engine to have found its way into the C63 Coupe, but apparently the blowers take up too much space. A peek under the bonnet confirms that things are tight under there. Eco warriors be damned.