Our pick of the luxury models that add super handling and outright pace
IT does seem strange that a country — ours — with some of the world’s most restrictive and heavily enforced open road speed limits has such a voracious appetite for go-fast machinery from Europe’s finest factory tuners, such as BMW’s M division and Mercedes’ AMG performance affiliate.
AMG specialises in atomicgrade V8s that can get you locked up for life in Australia. Yet on a per capita basis we buy more of them than any other country. Mercedes will sell about 5000 AMGs here this year, with the most popular model being the C63S sedan.
We rank third in the world on a per capita basis for BMW M sales, behind South Africa and Canada. While the M badge is now also applied to mildly tweaked models — called M Performance — the pure M cars are still popular.
If you want an M2, for example, you’re looking at early 2017 delivery. M3 sales have almost doubled this year.
Porsche GTs usually sell out as soon as they are released. Audi is expanding its RS performance brand, Lexus is in on the act with its F badge and Jaguar now has its first Special Vehicle Operations model, the F-Type SVR, in production.
If we were planning a trip to the speed-unlimited roads of the Northern Territory, here’s what we’d take ….
MERCEDES-AMG C63S FROM $154,510
The complete performance sedan (or, at $157,010, wagon) package. It combines everyday practicality, features and comfort with stellar drivetrain and chassis engineering. I drove the C63S at Bathurst and couldn’t believe how capable and tidy it was around one of the world’s most demanding tracks. The 4.0-litre V8 twin turbo goes like stink, of course, clipping the 0-100km/h ticket in just 4.0 seconds, but it’s the C63’s beautifully balanced, point-it-and-squirt handling that makes it such a joy to drive. It’s also loaded, with leather, superb AMG sports seats, killer Burmester audio, digital radio, sunroof and radar cruise. A deadset bargain. Bill McKinnon
BMW X5 M50D FROM $149,900
This is an M Performance model, which translates to Mlite according to the official script. Forget that — if you’re after a big, fast, luxurious family freighter, the M50d will fit the bill. It’s powered by BMW’s 3.0litre straight-six diesel, assisted by three turbochargers, so when you put your foot down at any speed in any gear it takes off, almost like a petrol V8, but with half the thirst. The 0-100km/h trip takes 5.3 seconds. Slow it ain’t. The M50d also gets around corners at speeds that 2.3 tonnes shouldn’t, it’s well-built, very spacious and you can option a couple of extra rear seats. BM
LEXUS RC F FROM$133,110
It mightn’t have the kudos of a Benz C63 Coupe or a BMW M4 Coupe but the Lexus RC F is right up there with them in the desirability stakes. Then there are the performance and handling. Not as outright sharp as the German coupes, the strikingly styled RC F has plenty of cut through on the street backed by impressive outputs from its high revving 5.0-litre V8 (351kW/530Nm). Despite weighing 1800kg, it is actually a handy track tool. Enhancing the whole driving experience is the blatting V8 note to savour along with dial-up drive modes spanning everything from Eco, through Normal right up to track-only Expert. Drive is to the rear wheels through an eight- speed sports auto and a clever differential that apportions drive to the wheel with grip. It was honed at Japan’s Fuji Speedway racetrack and Germany’s Nurburgring. RC F has a full range of luxury kit and most of the main driver assist features except for Autonomous Emergency Braking. It looks imposing in our back cover picture — like a crouching beast. The price is extremely competitive against main rivals. Peter Barnwell
AUDI RS7 PERFORMANCE $258,000
RS-badged Audis are, by definition, not slow. At the top of the RS range is the RS7 fastback powered by a twinturbo 4.0-litre V8 good for 412kW/700Nm. Some folks always want to go the extra mile _ and do it that little bit quicker. Audi has now obliged with the RS7 Performance. The specsheet is stunning, from the sticker price to the 3.7-second sprint to 100km/h, courtesy of 445kW/750Nm. Choose the “Dynamic package plus” option (at $25,840) and the electronically governed top speed is ramped up from 250km/h to 305km/h. This ain’t no stripped-out race car, though, with the interior housing the latest luxuries expected in a prestige vehicle. Craig Duff
BMW M2 $98,615
The M2 is one of the few cars just in this list that doesn’t need an unrestricted road to unleash its excitement. While more than capable of monstering its bigger, more expensive stablemates from BMW’s highperformance division, it is down twisty country roads where this rear-wheel drive weapon finds its ideal targets. The turbocharged 3.0-litre sixcylinder engine is matched to monstrous brakes, a sevenspeed automatic and a communicative chassis to provide the purest driving experience this side of a Porsche Cayman. That makes its ($9000 less if you opt for the manual transmission) a performance bargain. For the record, the two-door coupe’s 272kW/465Nm propels it to 100km/h in 4.3 seconds. CD
BMW X5 M