The differences between the C63 S Coupe and the 911 Carrera S that we’re hustling through the Löwenstein hills couldn’t be more profound. The most extreme contrasts include the position of the engine, the number of cylinders and their displacement, and the type of transmission. And, of course, the price. You’ll pony up substantially less at the Mercedes dealer, but does the Porsche premium also buy you a more rewarding drive? Let’s
“These tarmac-peelers were powered by naturally aspirated engines. But stringent regulations for air emissions have led to widespread adoption of turbocharging.”
The two-door C63 is a sedan-coupe hybrid, a stealth car in the morning rush hour yet an extrovert show stealer at night thanks to its flamboyant bodywork and the XXX-rated soundtrack from the engine exhaust. It’s roomy and practical, with usable rear seats and a large trunk, and it epitomizes all the attractions (and some of the flaws) of a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive automobile. Instead of a family car on steroids like the AMG, the turbocharged Carrera is instead a street racer kitted out with modern conveniences (although perhaps the most homogeneous 911 ever). Given its substantial horsepower and torque advantages, why doesn’t the AMG post quicker stopwatch times than the 911? Primarily because it lugs almost 600 more pounds, and it doesn’t have the 911’s rearward weight distribution to enhance traction. Nevertheless, the Carrera S needs its dual-clutch PDK transmission, launch control, and a racy Sport Chrono chassis setup to keep up with the super C.
Many modern sports cars try to be everybody’s darling. They want to be track tools, airport shuttles, fast-lane residents, and rolling investments all in one. Take the Carrera S, for example. In Sport Plus (aka riot mode), it behaves like a hooligan on probation. Let it do its own thing in Drive, though, and the driving experience drops to the bottom of the excitement index. The car’s dual-clutch transmission automatically selects the tallest gear for fuel efficiency, and initial throttle response borders on dopey, so the car is transformed from an aggressive disturber of the peace into hush-quiet whisper liner. The C63 doesn’t hold back to quite the same extent when it’s in automatic mode, yet it also promotes low-emissions fuel efficiency unless challenged by a restless pedal operator. Both these contenders need to be primed for maximum driving excitement; hit the Sport button and scale back stability control, then stick the shift lever in manual and enjoy.
Given its nose-heavy demeanor, wide rear track, and extra kinetic energy, the C63 S is more entertaining—and sometimes frustrating—to drive on wide sweepers and tight switchbacks than the 911. Laying down all that raw muscle can be a challenge for not only the suspension and tires but also the person at the wheel. With stability control engaged, a C300 is about as much fun. But with stability control in its more permissive mode, the AMG coupe swaps a hoodie and jogging pants for a muscle shirt and boxing gloves. And when the yellow warning symbol “ESP OFF” catches your eye, things start to get hairy.
In comparison, the Porsche’s dynamics should be hampered by an even more ill-fated weight distribution, yet it hangs on in the corners with more skill and attacks the road with greater determination. That’s the good news. The bad news is the 911 needs a bigger stage to excel. After all, it takes slightly longer to cross that transition zone as the car’s dynamic balance changes from understeer to neutral to oversteer, and this becomes less tricky as the road grows more open. The newly added ESP Sport Handling mode blends reason and rowdiness while maintaining a reassuring safety net.
So the Porsche 911 and the Mercedes AMG coupe have their strengths and weaknesses in the power and handling departments, but when it comes to switching gears, which is more rewarding: Porsche’s PDK or AMG’s Speedshift? The seven-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission scores with its rapid response to throttle-on/throttle-off inputs and an improved start-stop system that cuts the engine earlier on an approach to an intersection. It also allows the car to coast in fuel-saving neutral when the driver steps off the gas. The AMG’s seven-speed Speedshift automatic is marginally less efficient yet a slightly more emotional proposition. It changes ratios a bit more smoothly when in a relaxed driving program, while its super-quick clutch pack features an upshift overboost to neutralize that momentarily interrupted forward thrust between gears when you’re in aggressive mode.
So what unites this Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe and Porsche 911 Carrera S? Aside from the fact that both models go like stink, not much. The two-door C63 AMG S is the sportiest C-Class ever, without question, while the new Carrera S is the most sensible and accessible 911 we’ve driven in a long time. If price and emotion are your deciders, take the blue car. If prestige, panache, and perfection do the trick, go for yellow.
2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe Specifications
|Base Price:||$82,000 (est)|
|Engine:||4.0L twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8/503 hp @ 5,500-6,250 rpm, 516 lb-ft @ 1,750-4,500 rpm|
|Layout:||2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe|
|EPA Mileage:||18/25 mpg (city/hwy) (est)|
|L x W x H:||184.4 x 71.2 x 55.3 in|
|0-60 MPH:||3.8 sec|
|Top Speed:||180 mph|
2017 Porsche 911 Carrera S Specifications
|Base Price:||$107,595 (with PDK)|
|Engine:||3.0L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve flat-6/420 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 368 lb-ft @ 1,700-5,000 rpm|
|Transmission:||7-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Layout:||2-door, 4-passenger, rear-engine, RWD coupe|
|L x W x H:||177.1 x 71.2 x 51.0 in|
|0-60 MPH:||3.7 sec|
|Top Speed:||190 mph|