Audi RS 5 vs BMW M4 vs Mercedes-AMG C 63 S
We find out if the 444bhp Audi RS 5 can beat its BMW M4 and Mercedes-AMG C 63 S rivals
The war in the super-coupe sector seems to be a cyclical process. In recent years each new contender has risen to the top of the pile, and now there’s another high-performance two-door looking to assert its authority.
The RS 5 is the pinnacle of the Audi A5 range – the most driver-focused model on sale – which is why it’s going up against our current class champion, and Mercedes-AMG’s finest mid-size performance car, the C 63 S Coupe, as well as the revised BMW M4 Coupe.
Although the AMG is more expensive than the Audi, these models offer the most involvement and driving thrills, which is why we’ve pitched the RS 5 against this more powerful C 63 S. But with quattro four-wheel-drive traction, the Audi could have an advantage.
BMW has also updated its M4. While there are tweaks to the infotainment and styling, arguably more important for the M4 Competition package model that’s going into battle against its German rivals here are the alterations that have honed its handling. They were introduced as part of an update earlier this year to the 4 Series range, and BMW says they bring out even more dynamic ability.
The question is, which is the cream of the current super-coupe crop?
Audi RS 5
|Audi RS 5 Coupe
|2.9-litre V6 turbo, 444bhp
|Annual road tax:
The previous Audi RS 5 boasted stunning performance, but was a little short on fun. So with new underpinnings and a new engine, can the latest £62,900 Coupe topple its rivals from Mercedes-AMG and BMW’s M Division?
With those adaptive dampers in their softest setting, the RS 5 is the best-riding car here. It moves with more fluidity over rutted and rolling B-roads, serving up much greater compliance than the C 63.
The cabin is creak-free, too, and in Comfort mode the powertrain offers refinement to match the ride. Ramp things up to Dynamic and the chassis is tauter, curtailing body and wheel movement to add more composure; unlike fast Audis of the past, even in this mode it’s not overly harsh. You’ll feel more of the road surface, although the chassis still chamfers the edges of ruts in the road nicely. The steering is fast and, thanks to plenty of grip, it’s precise, but it has the least feel of the three cars in this test.
In conjunction with Audi’s famous quattro four-wheel-drive system, it means the car generates incredible purchase on the road, which certainly helps on the way out of corners. Combined with the Sport differential, it aids agility, plus acceleration off the line. This huge traction meant the RS 5 was the fastest car from 0-60mph, taking 3.6 seconds. With one more gear in its eight-speed automatic box than its rivals, it was also faster over our in-gear assessments. The 5.2-second 50-to-70mph time in seventh was particularly impressive.
Yet while there’s no arguing with the Audi’s performance, the engine doesn’t have as much zip as its rivals’, plus the auto box shifts more lazily in manual mode. There’s a nice V6 note, but it certainly doesn’t have the presence of the Mercedes’ V8.
The RS 5’s ability stems from its all-weather cross-country pace. It adapts to bad roads better than the competition, but it simply doesn’t feel as fun on them. Plus, it doesn’t deliver the level of connection you’d want from a sporty two-door like this.
Testers’ notes: “Our car had the £1,200 RS Sport exhaust, which in Dynamic mode amplifies the RS 5’s sound. It still isn’t as visceral as the M4 or as smile-inducing as the C 63’s rumble, though.”
Mercedes-AMG C 63 S
|Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Coupé
|4.0-litre V8 turbo, 503bhp
|Annual road tax:
Mercedes-AMG is on form. Its four-wheel-drive E 63 saloon offers supercar pace, while the rear-wheel-drive-only C 63 saloon and Coupe models deliver an amazing level of involvement and personality alongside thrilling dynamics. We know this from past encounters, but is the £70,385 C 63 S we test here the best all-round performance two-door?
While the Mercedes couldn’t match the Audi’s 0-60mph time, with wheelspin off the line holding it back to 4.3 seconds despite launch control, the ballistic V8 turbo engine gives it incredible character. Despite only being two-wheel drive, traction is still surprisingly good once you’ve got the car moving, thanks to the electronically controlled limited-slip differential, which is specific to the C 63 S.
The seven-speed transmission isn’t quite as snappy as the BMW’s gearbox, but it shifts positively in manual mode with a great crack from the AMG Performance exhaust.
In gear it lagged a little behind the Audi, but it was in effect on par with or undercut the BMW, thanks to a brutal 700Nm of torque produced low down from just 1,750rpm. However, going up through the ratios from 30 to 70mph, the C 63 matched the Audi and BMW’s 3.3-second time, showing how little difference there is between these three cars.
There’s not much turbo lag and throttle response is good, but the 1,800kg kerbweight does dull the C 63’s agility a little. It’ll behave gracefully with the ESC off, but on the road the car sometimes struggles to control its weight. This is evident in the set-up, because the C 63 feels firmer than its rivals, even in the softest of the three dampers settings.
The damping is harsher, but this is all relative because the AMG is still fairly comfortable on a cruise. In addition, the steering’s clarity and the engine’s personality are addictive, and are worth making the sacrifice for in terms of a little less ride comfort.
Testers’ notes: “It’s worth taking your AMG on track to experience its full performance potential. Mercedes includes a free driver training experience to explore the limits in safety.”
|BMW M4 Coupé Competition package DCT
|3.0-litre 6cyl turbo, 444bhp
|Annual road tax:
On paper the updates to the BMW M4 aren’t that extensive, but that’s not the full story because this tweaked car feels like an evolution of what went before. In Competition package form and fitted with BMW’s dual-clutch auto gearbox to match the auto-only Audi and AMG, the M4 costs £64,725.
Push the starter button and the engine barks into life, whereas the Audi’s unit sounds softer. It’s indicative of what the BMW is like to drive. It’s responsive, with sharp steering that’s perfectly geared to the amount of grip on offer – which is plenty, because the M4’s front axle can be buried into the turns without protestation.
However, the steering doesn’t offer much feel and is therefore best in the lightest of the three settings. Like the Mercedes, the rear-wheel-drive platform and explosive turbocharged torque mean it’s easy to exploit the chassis’ balance, and whereas this was a spikey process in previous M4s, this updated model feels more accessible and more forgiving if you get things wrong. You won’t do that often, though, because there’s lots of grip on offer and the chassis communicates what it’s doing well through the driver’s seat, if not so much through the steering.
These messages are relayed in plenty of clarity in the firmest of the three modes, controlling roll and ruling body movements rigidly. However, in the softest setting it feels more compliant than the Mercedes, with easily as much agility.
The engine is effective like the Audi’s, but neither six-cylinder unit can hope to match the V8 Mercedes’ character. Still, with launch control the M4 covered 0-60mph in 4.4 seconds. Between 50 and 70mph in the higher gears there was nothing in it between the M4 and C 63, although the AMG had the edge between 30 and 50mph thanks to its greater torque. Still, there’s more than enough performance on offer in the BMW and it’s now easier to exploit.
Testers’ notes: “It feels like BMW has gently rounded off the old M4’s spikey nature. It’s still explosive, but is now more willing and easier to drive. It’s better for it, while the limits are still high.”
First place: BMW M4
Revisions to the M4 have addressed many of its predecessor’s problems. The changes are subtle, but just enough to edge it ahead of the Mercedes. It’s the sharper car and is now more progressive than it was before, but the BMW still delivers enough to make it a more usable coupé day to day than the AMG. With its extra power, the Competition package nicely balances ferocity and friendliness.
Second place: Mercedes-AMG C 63 S
Be in no doubt that the ballistic V8 gives the AMG a huge personality and incredible performance. It’s just not as compliant or as agile as the revised M4. All three cars will be costly to run (although the C 63 is the most expensive), but there’s still enough talent to make this a lovely all-round coupé. It’s simply more fun and engaging than the RS 5, while the margin to the M4 is minuscule.
Third place: Audi RS 5
The Audi RS 5 is a comfortable, refined and rapid choice, but a super-coupé should offer more fun and a thrilling performance from behind the wheel. Involvement matters more than practicality with these cars, and while the new RS 5 is a good all-rounder and well suited to the UK, it simply doesn’t entertain or hit the high notes of its rivals from a driving point of view.
Other options for the same money:
Lexus RC F (new)
Engine: 5.0-litre V8, 470bhp
The RC F differs from this trio because its 5.0-litre V8 engine isn’t turbocharged. It sounds great and produces 470bhp, but you have to rev it hard to get the best from it, and the gearbox isn’t the greatest. However, it’s an individual alternative.
Porsche 911 Carrera S PDK (used)
Engine: 3.8-litre flat-six, 395bhp
For the same money, you can buy a used Porsche 911, and while it trails our trio on power, you get a greater connection to the car. It’s a bit less practical, but the 2+2 layout means it’s still usable if you have small children. It’s a stunning sports coupé.
|BMW M4 Coupe Competition package DCT
|Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Coupe
Audi RS 5 Coupe
|On the road price
|Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)
|Annual tax liability std/higher rate
|Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)
|Ins. group/quote/road tax cost
|Cost of servicing
|Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel
|60 litres/inflation kit
|66 litres/inflation kit
58 litres/space saver
|Basic warranty (miles)/recovery
|Service intervals/UK dealers
|18,000 miles (2yrs)/192
|15,500 miles (1yr)/147
|Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.
|30-50mph in 3rd/4th
|50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th/8th
|Top speed/rpm at 70mph
|Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range
|Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket
|Auto box/ESC/adaptive cruise/AEB
|Climate control/leather/heated seats
|Met paint/LED lights/keyless entry & go