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Old 02-23-2009, 01:23 PM   #1
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Default BMW M3 vs. Audi RS4 vs. Cadillac CTS-V vs. Lexus IS-F vs. Mercedes C63 AMG


M, RS, V, F, AMG. The alpha alphabet represents five manufacturers’ best efforts to create something unique, exciting and memorable from their more prosaic mainstream motors. The resulting “performance tuned” sports sedans are so powerful, so capable, so versatile, that they’re the ground based equivalent of the all-weather fighter jets battle for control of the skies.

While the shibboleth “there’s no such thing as a bad car” applies here more than it ever will anywhere else, there are always going to be winners and losers. And it’s our job to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Each car symbolizes the corporate culture that crafted it. Each car possesses a unique personality. And each vehicle had a clear mission profile. BMW’s M3 seeks to defend and extend proven road-going superiority through maximum thrust and maneuverability. Audi’s RS4 set out to shoot down the BMW. Mercedes’ C63 AMG embarks on a low-level bombing run. Cadillac’s CTS-V simply wants to defend its home airspace. And the Lexus IS-F tries to prove it can create the world’s fastest toaster.

I was privileged to drive these cars. Each time, I walked away from the experience with a gigantic smile on my face. Despite the G-inspired facial rictus, I walked away liking some of these uber sedans more than others. In the final– OK initial analysis, my preferences stem as much from my personality as they do from each car’s aesthetics,
ergonomics and driving dynamics.

I’m an A-type aviator that breaks things for a living and abhors mediocrity. Mea culpa. So what follows is Capt Mike’s ultimate guide to $60k super sedans. Nothing more. Nothing less. Rock on.

5th Place - Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG

If you think it’s OK to buy a car for its engine, the C63 awaits. The AMG-fettled 451bhp V8 powerplant beats the Cadillac and Audi’s units to hold the title of “world’s best engine note.” And there’s nothing with wrong with the way the Mercedes mill propels pistonheads towards perdition. The C63 AMG is blessed with an epic, astounding engine.

Did I mention the CV63’s deeply contoured Recaro seats, or the automatic transmission that snaps off gearshifts like a high-speed Nikon camera changes frames? Und zen… the C63’s interior falls well short of its natural competitors’ cabins. The C63’s plastics are still top notch, and the switch actions are sublime. But something’s missing. Some sign that the librarian is about to take off her cheap plastic glasses, shake loose her hair and muss yours.

You really lose faith when you steer the car; the C63 AMG doesn’t mask its weight like the others sedans assembled here. The helm precision delivered by every other car in the comparo is notably absent in the Mercedes. Sure, you can throw this bad boy around, and it’s easy enough to hang the tail out in clouds of tire smoke. But the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG feels a bit like the world’s fastest, best-handling Mustang. How great is that?

Theme song: Link Wray’s Deuces Wild

4th Place - Lexus IS-F

The Lexus IS-F has no manual transmission, weird styling and less badge appeal than a Trans Am. However, focusing on these elements detracts from the Lexus ‘ amazing accomplishment: straight out of the box, Lexus’ first F is the fastest AND most comfortable sports sedan money can buy.

All the other cars in this comparison seek that hard edge, that extreme sportiness that proclaims them the King of the ‘Ring. The Lexus just sits back quietly and invites you to enjoy a surround-sound adventure of 416hp proportions.
Around town, the IS-F’s V8 remains hushed and tranquil.

Slam down the pedal, crest 3,000rpms and the exhaust baffles open. All Heaven breaks loose. Although the Lexus IS-F is every bit as capable in the corners as, gulp, the BMW M3, the smooth ride remain.
In this group, the IS-F is the car you’d choose to drive from say, Atlanta to Providence, RI. But it’s not the car that would whisper in your ear, “Before we park up, there’s this nice little twisty road out by the reservoir…” On the other hand, $50G’s for a brand new 2008?

Theme song: “Don’t Touch my Hat” by Lyle Lovett

3rd Place - Audi RS4

The Audi is the oldest car here. Not that you’d wouldn’t not know it from looking at it. The RS4’s sheetmetal is not aging well. Yesterday’s creases, gigantic snout and look-at me-bulges are all of a piece, but it’s increasingly difficult to decide what whole the parts are supposed to form. The RS4’s cabin holds the top slot for fit and finish, but its omnipresent grays and MMI lack the Caddy’s joi de vivre and the BMW’s technologie mach frei.

Fire it up, push the RS4’s “S” button and it’s like you poked a dozing tiger with a pointy stick. It’s ferociously pissed, and it’s not even awake yet. When Ingolsdtadt’s V8 rouses from its slumber, you’ve got the proverbial tiger by an unwagging tail. And it’s got you by the balls. There may be a harsher riding sports sedans (cough GT-R cough), but it’s not in this group.

Yes, the RS4 finally has genuine steering feel. Yes, you can drive it like a Porsche C4S: just point and shoot. But there’s no excuse for $60k car to offer so little luxury.
Theme song: Herr John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Hurts So Good.”

2nd Place - BMW M3

The BMW M3 was pipped to the post by the Cadillac CTS-V for one main reason: too much technology. I’m a man whose world is defined by acronyms, who depends on computers to keep me alive. Yet I got lost in the e-gadgetry foisted upon the Bimmer’s 414bhp V8 chassis. iDrive, MDrive, handling nannies, traction nannies and an ECU smart enough to clone dinosaurs– the Bimmer’s brain created a corner carving concert that made it a, OK, the consummate sports sedan.

But somewhere along the line it lost some it its character.
No question: that spark of genius remains buried deep within the M3’s box of tricks. When I stopped fiddling with all the gadgets, set everything to automatic, and let loose the dogs of war, I could just about recapture those glory days, glory days, glory days. The spirit of the original E30 M3 struggles to get out.

Which is a bit like complaining that watching Battlestar Gallactica is never as good as it was the first time. The BMW M3 was, is and most likely will be the most feelsome sports sedan in the world. Those who prefer finesse to raw thrills are free to transpose my top two choices without any debate. Well, from me.

Theme song: I take Beethoven’s fifth.

1st Place - Cadillac CTS-V (Manual)

The other mad machines in this comparo made the sheetmetal leap from mainstream to insanestream via louvers, brake ducts, spoilers, exhaust pipes and more exhaust pipes.

The Cadillac CTS-V simply adds some chrome to the aggressive original (well V2) design and meshes around with the front end. Inside, the Caddy proves, once and for all (unfortunately), that General Motors can make an interior to satisfy an Audi driver. Taken as a whole, the Cadillac CTS-V comes across as the brash American, fitness-trained by Hollywood’s best, wearing a perfectly tailored who’s the [Hugo] boss suit.

When the pinks are on the line, the ultimate Caddy delivers the goods. At our 60 large price point, the Cadillac CTS-V has 100bhp worth of extra Bimmer bashing oomph under the bonnet. The power rips out the back wheels, while the engine snarls with enough ferocity to send the Germans to the local tuning shop for some fortifying kaffe und kuchen.

But it doesn’t stop there, and nor do you. The CTS-V’s gearbox (automatic or manual), suspension and brakes may lack the M3’s delicacy of touch, but they work with equal harmony and precision. This is one of those rare cars that creates confidence even as it unleashes accelerative and lateral mayhem.

Theme song: anything by Stevie Ray Vaughan[

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Old 02-23-2009, 01:41 PM   #2
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There may be a harsher riding sports sedans (cough GT-R cough)...
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Old 02-23-2009, 01:43 PM   #3
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I'll take one of each...
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Old 02-23-2009, 02:13 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Skunkers View Post
While I wholeheartedly agree, I don't think that coupe and sedan mean 2 or 4 doors anymore; at least in auto-marketing speak.
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Old 02-23-2009, 02:31 PM   #5
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Way to go, Caddy! That thing's doing really well, in the comparison tests.
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Old 02-23-2009, 03:00 PM   #6
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love to get my hands on any one of those
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Old 02-23-2009, 03:03 PM   #7
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i would take the rs4 hands down love the size of them (and much more)
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Old 02-23-2009, 03:04 PM   #8
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the caddi is awsome
looks agressive
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Old 02-23-2009, 03:25 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Godmal View Post
While I wholeheartedly agree, I don't think that coupe and sedan mean 2 or 4 doors anymore; at least in auto-marketing speak.
It never did, really. That was just the definition the big 3 used.
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Old 02-23-2009, 03:28 PM   #10
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It's odd how the c63 came last in this test. I'd take it over the IS-F any day of the week. RS4 is my personal favorite though.
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Old 02-23-2009, 03:30 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by bal00 View Post
It never did, really. That was just the definition the big 3 used.
Yup. My 2 door 2.5RS is actually a sedan.

Using Google definition: sedan - a car that is closed and that has front and rear seats and two or four doors

Meanwhile, most of the definitions for coupe involve two seats and two doors.

The only way a car with a rear seat can be a coupe is if it has a 2+2 configuration (which means that the rear seats are basically unusable by even small adults).. but that's the rest of the world, and here in 'Merica.. we call it a coupe if it's got two giant doors and seats 6.
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Old 02-23-2009, 03:37 PM   #12
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CTS-V looks great! Glad to see that Caddi didn't succumb to the monotonous styling and evolved within a truly unique design language. A colleague of mine just got one…it is pretty amazing in the flesh. After having driven it, I would take it over an M5 any day.
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Old 02-23-2009, 03:44 PM   #13
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wait, what is this positive comments on a domestic car.... (looks to make sure he is still on NASIOC).... WOW!!! it must be an amazing car.
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Old 02-23-2009, 05:13 PM   #14
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Mmm Cts Ftmfw
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Old 02-23-2009, 11:12 PM   #15
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Although the Lexus IS-F is every bit as capable in the corners as, gulp, the BMW M3, the smooth ride remain.
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Old 02-24-2009, 09:38 AM   #16
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I :heart: the new CTS-V!!!!
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Old 02-24-2009, 09:40 AM   #17
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The only way I'd choose an ISF over an M3 is because of the big price difference for a 1 yr old car. ISF depreciates much faster. Although if the CTS-V depreciates like the old one it's going a screaming bargain (even more so than it is now).
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Old 02-24-2009, 10:10 AM   #18
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cts-v is a beast...
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Old 02-24-2009, 11:59 AM   #19
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Nice comparo but why would they put the cts v against the m3 the cts v was suppose to rival the m5 e63 etc.
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Old 02-24-2009, 12:10 PM   #20
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Nice comparo but why would they put the cts v against the m3 the cts v was suppose to rival the m5 e63 etc.
Because they both come in at around the same price point.
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