Scream­ing Ben­zer

A cliche-shat­ter­ing hatch rewrites the rules and wins

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige - PAUL POTTINGER CARSGUIDE ED­I­TOR paul.pottinger@carsguide.com.au

IT came down to his­tory’s hottest hatch, the best Porsche south of a 911 and an SUV of al­most schizophreni­cally di­verse abil­i­ties.

Porsche’s Cay­man S with PDK trans­mis­sion is at least three-quar­ters as good as the iconic 911, hav­ing some 50 per cent com­mon­al­ity and about 50 per cent of the price tag.

One mo­ment Range Rover’s top-spec Sport with its su­per­charged V8 is slic­ing through C-roads like a hot scim­i­tar through but­ter, the next it’s tip­ping down a 15-de­gree mud slope un­der its own sure-footed elec­tronic guid­ance.

Ei­ther might have won Carsguide’s Pres­tige Car of the Year if not for a cast­ing vote that gave it to a par­a­digm-smash­ing five-door that rewrites the rules both for hot hatches and for pres­tige cars.

1. MERCEDES-BENZ A45 AMG

AT $74,900 MercedesBenz’s A45 AMG is not only the cheap­est prod­uct of Benz’s tun­ing house by some 50 per cent but it’s also pound-for-pound the best.

The achieve­ment of the A-Class in bring­ing in a full­blown Benz for Mazda3 money is feat enough but the AMG ver­sion is a his­toric event.

Con­sider that next to the $150K C63, AMG has halved its cylin­der count to four, re­duced its ca­pac­ity by 4.2 litres and trans­ferred the drive wheels from rear to front (with on­de­mand all-wheel drive) and given us a car that will leave its other wares be­hind on a tight, twist­ing road.

This is a su­per­car in hot hatch form, one that fu­ture-proofs this noble line against the even­tual leg­isla­tively driven ex­tinc­tion of throb­bing V8s.

That its value com­po­nent is among the A45’s chief as­sets says it all for the way in which Benz Aus­tralia has come to lead the pres­tige charge.

At $75K, only fancy paint, sun­roof and a bit of cos­metic frip­pery is op­tional. Off the line, it bashes up al­most any­thing this side of $250,000.

The world’s most pow­er­ful four-cylin­der pro­duc­tion en­gine is abet­ted by all-wheeldrive that’s only part-time but fully able to put down its for­mi­da­ble 265kW/450Nm.

2. PORSCHE CAY­MAN S

FANCY a new Porsche 911 for less than $140,000? Well, you can’t have one. You can, how­ever, have the mag­nif­i­cent Cay­man S.

Just as its to­p­less Boxster sib­ling was Carsguide’s Pres­tige Car of 2012, the hard­top al­most re­peats the feat in 2013.

There is noth­ing en­try-level or de­classe about the new Cay­man. It’s a fully fledged and dis­tinct Porsche sports car in its own right.

No 911 owner would will­ingly step down to a lesser model. How­ever, the Cay­man is so com­plete as to make one won­der about the wis­dom of step­ping up.

The full-cream S de­ploys the a slightly milder tune of the 3.4-litre flat-six used in the 911 Car­rera to pro­pel a kerb weight of some 50kg less.

The Cay­man S’s man­ual has six speeds rather than the 911’s unique seven but, re­ally, who cares? At $145,200, the top-spec S uses pre­cisely the sev­en­speed twin clutch PDK auto of the se­nior car to achieve 100km/h from stand­ing in less than five sec­onds.

The Cay­man is a per­for­mance bar­gain but the equa­tion is made murky by the ob­vi­ous ques­tion: Why does Porsche charge more for the Cay­man coupe than its road­ster sib­ling Boxster? The an­swer is, of course, be­cause it can.

3. RANGE ROVER SPORT V8

The glo­ri­ous 5.0-litre su­per­charged V8 (375kW/ 625Nm) is $161,600 in HSE Dy­namic grade and $182,400 as Au­to­bi­og­ra­phy Dy­namic, yet still are sub­ject to an ex­tra ask for some op­tions.

But what a de­vice. What an un­fea­si­ble, broadly ta­lented thing this is, one that has you ask­ing re­peat­edly: How can the same car be so var­i­ously out­stand­ing?

Dy­nam­i­cally, the su­per­charged Sport V8 keeps pace with a Porsche Cayenne.

At some 5.0 sec­onds to 100km/h it is by some dis­tance the fastest ever Land Rover.

Yet it crawls on rocks and wades to al­most a me­tre’s depth as read­ily as the doughty Dis­cov­ery.

At last the Cayenne has a ri­val, at least un­til the road sur­face goes to pot then the Rangie is out by it­self.

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