Test BMW M3 Touring vs Mercedes-AMG C 63 S E-Performance Estate – Double test

The BMW M3 Touring and Mercedes-AMG C63 Estate are two of the fastest station wagons ever. Supercar and station wagon at the same time.

The Mercedes-AMG C 63 S E-Performance Estate has almost 700 hp, which is about 200 more than the BMW M3 Touring. That should be a resounding victory for the Mercedes C 63, but the AMG will still have a surprisingly tough time against the BMW M3 Touring.

When we roll out of the pit lane of the Meppen circuit for the first lap with the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S E-Performance and can go full throttle for the first time on the straight, the AMG makes just as a stunning impression as the figures suggest. If the first blow is indeed worth a dollar, the new Mercedes-AMG C 63 SE Performance will probably win in the first second of the battle. The new C AMG produces 680 hp, making it not only the strongest C-class ever by some distance, but it also delivers no less than 170 hp more than the M3 Touring. If that isn’t a knockout blow… Mercedes may have chosen to equip the C 63 AMG with plug-in hybrid technology, but it is clear that it is not primarily intended to reduce consumption. Instead, the 204 hp electric motor with two-speed rear transmission must mainly add extra power to the 476 hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo engine with nine-speed automatic transmission in the front. The four-cylinder engine is ventilated by a turbo with an integrated electric motor, so that the compressor can build up pressure before there are any exhaust gases. Both engines can also distribute their power between the front and rear axles and there is an integrated starter-generator to give that extra boost of torque. To complete the sports equipment, there is also four-wheel steering. The rear axle therefore actively helps to get the car into the bend or to stabilize it.

Soaking wet

Back to the straight, where the C AMG gains speed at a literally breathtaking pace. The track is soaking wet and for a moment the rear seems to lose grip and the ESP intervenes at 130 km/h, but then the car sprints in a relentless line to speeds above 200 km/h. Because of the considerable weight of almost 2,100 kilos dry, I deliberately brake very early. For a moment there is a somewhat spongy feeling in the brake pedal in the recovery part of the stroke, then the discs start to bite and the pedal becomes rock hard. Not the best communication, but the deceleration is more than equal to the acceleration. Then send it in and the AMG surprises you again. Yes, the weight is noticeable, but the four-wheel steering forces the nose into the corner. When accelerating you feel the rear pushing and in the wet oversteer is child’s play. Well, the sensation of a roaring V8 is missing, but the first impression of the new AMG is so overwhelming that you almost forget it.


You would almost feel sorry for the M3. If there is a Touring version of the fastest 3 Series in history, it immediately faces the largest muscle bundle that has ever graced the segment. On paper, the M3 Touring almost looks old-fashioned. The only electric motor in it is the starter motor and not even a modern one that is connected to the combustion engine with a belt. No, the 3.0-liter inline six with twin turbos has to do it all on its own, resulting in 510 hp and 650 Nm. Not a small amount, but compared to the AMG it still stands out a bit sharply. As a Touring, the M3 always gets xDrive all-wheel drive, but no four-wheel steering, and the automatic transmission operates with eight gears instead of nine. In short, it is all slightly less numerically.

Yet that is not the feeling that prevails when we switch after an introductory round. Instead, the feeling of (very relative) lightness dominates. This sentence should never be written, but the 1,865-kilo M3 Touring feels surprisingly light on its feet. Already in the first braking zone you feel that there is simply less mass to be decelerated and the brake pedal feels more consistent. That lack of weight then takes the M3 Touring into the bend, where the steering inspires much more confidence and the nose is noticeably easier to turn. It is still too wet to really determine whether there is actually more grip, but the M3 feels more agile, more playful and above all more natural. The six-cylinder sounds nicer and the performance is not actually inferior. What was supposed to be a certain knockout in the first round for the AMG turned out to be a surprising match.


This is mainly because the AMG makes a stunning first impression, but has difficulty maintaining it. What initially seemed like an ESP intervention at 130, for example, turns out to be the moment that the electric motor changes gears, losing the full 204 hp each time. That is a large share of the figure that defines the C: that 680 hp. It is only available to you for ten seconds. After that, the 6.1 kWh battery pack no longer has enough power to allow the electric motor to deliver its full power, causing it to drop to 95 hp. The system power is then 571 hp. Still a lot, but considerably less. If you want to set the fastest lap, you have to think carefully about where you want to use full power, something for which AMG has built a special function into the infotainment system containing various popular circuits.

Toto Wolff

Well, in Formula 1 they also have to regularly do a charging lap, but sometimes you get the feeling that you are more Toto Wolff than Lewis Hamilton: you are more concerned with managing than driving. Not only the power, but also – or actually especially – the weight. We are nowhere near going full speed and the track is also wet and cool due to the rain, and yet after a few laps Newton already starts to take revenge for the violation of his laws. The front tires become too hot, causing the C 63 to understeer more and more. While the AMG initially seemed surprisingly neutral and agile, the weight is becoming more and more noticeable and that does not improve the driving pleasure at all. No, the C 63 really relies on a quick, indefensible blow and not a long, grueling competition on technique. The weight is too high for that and its performance is not consistent enough. You’re never quite sure what exactly you’re going to get when you step on the gas.


In the meantime, the M3 Touring is starting to come into its element. The temperature in both tires and brakes remains more consistent and although the pace is higher, the balance remains much more neutral. Just like the Mercedes, the M3 also has a mode in which the four-wheel drive can be switched off and, just like with the C 63, this automatically means that the ESP must be turned off completely. Unlike its opponent, however, you do not have to go through an extensive procedure and the M3 gives you the confidence to give it a try. Power slides then naturally become child’s play. Compared to its predecessor, however, the rear side moves with much more control and predictability, allowing even less experienced drivers to try this trick. Those who prefer a safety net can also set the four-wheel drive system and the ESP to Sport mode. If you lose control, the car will come to help you in extremis, but you will be given quite a bit of freedom before the emergency forces arrive. The drivetrain is also more convincing. Well, the 3.0-liter inline six peaks at 510 hp and at the bottom the throttle response is less sharp than that of its electrically assisted opponent. However, you always have that 510 hp and because the eight-speed automatic transmission works brighter and more alert, it is easier to keep the engine in its optimal speed range, which improves the sensation. In practice, the performance of the M3 appears to be of the same, nauseating level.


And then there is the fact that the BMW of this duo is the better all-rounder for every day. Part of the appeal of these types of cars is that they combine the performance of a sports car with the space of an average station wagon. The BMW does that and the AMG with its bulge in the luggage compartment does less. The ergonomics on board the M3 are also better. Both cars offer 1,001 options to adjust the chassis, drivetrain and electronics as desired, but in the BMW you get two shortcut buttons on the steering wheel to save preset settings. Together with the Comfort mode in which the car starts up, you have three configurations at your fingertips and you are always ready for the moment when that one nice bend presents itself. In the AMG there is one freely configurable mode and finding the right combination of settings can be a challenge. No matter how much nicer the C-class is on the inside, you would rather be in the BMW, which, despite its higher emissions, also turns out to be cheaper. Of course, these types of cars become as expensive as your wish list is long, but still. And the consumption? If we can believe the consumption meters, in both cases it is somewhere between ‘heavy’ and ‘disastrous’, depending on your driving style.

Unequal battle

What seemed like an uneven battle in favor of the AMG ultimately turns into a fascinating match, in which the C-class emerges as an extremely strong, but quickly tired powerhouse, against the less strong, but more athletic M3. There are definitely moments when the C-class manages to shape the magic of an AMG in a new way and that gives good hope that there is a future for these types of power stations. The future is just not today, and this match is.

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