We have reviewed these machines thoroughly and a clear winner was actually hard to come by. At first, we would have easily picked the BMW M3 to win this battle, but something amazing happened. The Lexus IS-F has changed the way we think about the Japanese premium brand.
The IS, GS, ES, LS, and all those other models have been the sort of things we think about in order to fall asleep and in fact, they worked better than counting sheep. While we were sound asleep with the thought of more exciting cars filling our heads, Lexus must have invaded our dreams, as they created a car for us - the driving enthusiasts - who take to a soft suspension like we take to swine flu; not well.
BMW on the other hand has always been one of our favorite brands. The 3-Series has been fantastic for years and the 5-Series and 7-Series sedans are brilliantly luxurious, but fun to drive. They might be a bit confusing at the moment, but nothing cures that quite like the M division.
Let’s spice things up a little shall we? We reviewed this car a while ago, so consider it an old neighbor. The Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG is like an ax murderer who lives next door, always plotting a way to destroy its next victim. While that might not sound all that wonderful in real life, it’s fantastically invigorating in car form.
Three cars with monster motors; two with four doors, the other with two. Which would come out on top, the IS-F, C63, or the M3?
Hit the jump to find out.
Life isn’t all that bad right now. Three weeks, three different, but sensationally brilliant vehicles. Each car wears something a little special; an M, F, or AMG badge. For those in the know, these letters signify something very special. Raised hoods, flared wheel arches, massive brakes, sporty seats, and ungodly amounts of power all what these machines are all about. Sitting inside their cabins is like sitting behind the wheel of a fighter jet -if they had wheels - with wonderful buttons that allow you to control ride settings, traction and stability controls, and paddle shifters. It won’t come cheap though, as each one of these vehicles is going to cost a large sum of cash.
The BMW M3 was launched back in 2007 as a coupe, and then as a sedan a year later. While we would have loved to get our hands on one of those, the four-door variant is being dropped after the 2010 model year, and seeing as how we want to keep this comparison relevant for more than a few months, we opted for the coupe. The M3 packs a 4.0-liter V8 with 414 horsepower, which is all connected to a manual transmission. It should be noted that the M3 packs the least amount of ponies, but it does weigh the least.
The Lexus IS-F is a shocking piece of kit. To be honest we weren’t sure what to make of it. Lexus making something fast and exciting is like the San Diego Padres winning the NL West. Under the hood of the steroid induced IS is a 5.0-liter V8 with 416 horsepower, two more than the M3. The motor is connected to a wacky eight-speed transmission with manual mode and paddle shifters. That motor and the car’s weight helps it fall right in the middle of the performance group.
From the AMG division of Mercedes-Benz, we have the lovely and quite shiny C63. The super C-Class is larger and wider than its predecessors, and much more aggressive looking. The motor under the hood is truly incredible. A 6.2-liter V8 with 451 horsepower easily takes the cake of this group. That being said though, it is a heavy brute. The V8 tower of power is connected to seven-speed automatic trans-SpeedShift, which offers Comfort, Sport, and Manual modes.
If your looking for pure speed thrills, the C63 is by far the all out favorite. Taking off in this bad boy is like being fired out of a sniper rifle. The C63 will hit 60 miles per hour in just 4.3 seconds and the transmission - when in sport mode - is lightening fast. If you like noise that will shatter windows, the C63’s exhaust note is something to behold. The growl that comes from those tail pipes is intoxicating to say the least.
That’s not to say that the IS-F doesn’t sound good, because it does. While it doesn’t rev as high as we would have liked - only 6800 rpm - it does the job. The motor is quiet and refined at lower speeds, but step on the gas and get the rpm needle up and a deep howl from the V8 engulfs the entire sedan. When it sport mode, the eight-speed transmission is hard and quick. It’s not as quick as the C63 to 60 mph, but it’s right in the center of the bunch again, at 4.6 seconds.
Rounding out the herd is the M powered BMW. With less power, less torque, and a manual transmission, you would expect the M3 to be a tad slow compared to the others. Well, you’d be right. The driving fun is found when your really mashing it to the 8300 rpm redline and, while it might not be as quick, it’s still just as fun. The clutch is light and easy to use, but the shifter is a little disconnected. We’d still take a proper manual over one of the technological automatics any day, no matter how slow they might be. Despite the lack of stats, the M3 is just as quick as the IS-F to 60 mph.
On public roads, speeding is seen as a bad thing, but nobody ever said anything about corners. The ability to take a corner is one of the most important things in a car like this. The Mercedes has a crisp feeling, with plenty of feedback through the wheel. The Lexus uses electronic steering, which hurts the feeling when your really giving it the beans. All that aside, the grip is sensational, but it does understeer a tad at the limit with a slight disconnected feeling. If corning is what you’re after, the M3 is the car to get. The feedback is brilliant and the steering is light and nimble.
The Mercedes is a good road car, but a tad stiff. It takes corners very well and it’s always letting you know what’s going on. At high-speeds the stability of the car is perfect, and bumps and road imperfections don’t upset the handling.
The Lexus has a very hard ride. If we had one major issue with it during our week with the car it was the back breaking ride. Under normal driving conditions, the IS-F handles with ease, but push it to the limits and it severely understeers. On the plus side, the IS-F does have the quietest ride of the three.
Taking corners in the M3 is a privilege, as it’s balanced and composed in any situation. The BMW is easily the most agile of the three. The feedback through the wheel is sensational and the car is always letting you know what’s going on. Bumps don’t seem to affect the handling and stability at speed is spot on. The ride is also the best out of the group on normal roads.
Moving into the interiors of each car, we want to take a look at the seats that the drivers will be seating in when piloting these performance machines. In the IS-F the seats are sensational. The soft leather absorbs the bumps that might be felt with the stiff suspension and it would be easily to sit in them on a daily basis. In keeping with the overall theme of the car, the C63 seats are heavily bolstered and quite hard. On the racetrack, the seats were brilliant, but for road use, we aren’t too pleased with them. Sitting in the BMW is perfect on normal roads, but they could use a little more support for aggressive driving.
The BMW’s cabin is quintessentially German. It’s built to the highest degree of quality and it’s calm and sedate. The sound system was brilliant and the controls were easy to figure out. The Lexus was a bit of a let down in the interior department. We liked it, but some might not be fans of the aluminized carbon-fiber stuff that is on the center counsel and a few other areas. The car’s controls are nearly identical to the normal IS so we weren’t that impressed, but they were easy to use. The Mercedes is nearly the same as the BMW, all business and all German. There is a navigation screen that pops out of the dash and some neat sporty trim.
After spending time with each of these machines we had a verdict to deliver. Driving the Lexus and the Mercedes feel as if they were normal cars with some sporting touches. The M3 on the other hand, feels like it was designed for this from the start. It’s fantastic in nearly every way.
That being said, we would have liked a little more get up and go from the M3. It lacks the torque of the other two cars and it never really feels as fast in a straight line as the other two.
The Lexus is the new boy among the three. Nobody could have imagined that such a car could be created by such a sedate company. It was fast, aggressive, and wonderful to drive. It wasn’t all fun and games though. Some of the interior bits might not suit everybody’s tastes and the car feels way too detached at the limit. It isn’t the fastest to 60 miles per hour, or 100 mph. It wasn’t the quickest around the track or in the quarter mile either. The price of the car is no more than the other two, so you won’t get that normal Lexus value. We really liked the IS-F, it did most things very well, but it never did anything better than the other two.
The Mercedes was a fun, if not scary, car to drive. Taking corners at speed is like playing with a loaded gun. You get miles and miles of grip and then, out of nowhere, it snaps and sends you into a tree. It might be scary, it might be vulgar, but it’s so much fun. The noise and power are two things that everybody who loves speed should experience. The car was the quickest to 60 mph, the quickest to 100 mph, and the fastest in the quarter mile. If speed is what you want, the C63 is the perfect fit.
The BMW M3 was suppose to be good. Let’s face it, mostly all M3 products over the years were sensational, and this car was no different. The V8 is strong and fast, if not a little tame. The handling was the best by miles out of the three and the interior is well built and well laid-out. We like the way it looks and we love that it can be used on a daily basis. The ride is hard enough for track use, but forgiving on the road. It’s never punishing like the Lexus and the Mercedes. That’s the reason why we are picking it as the winner of the group.
Third Place - Lexus IS-F
Second Place - Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG
First Place - BMW M3