Max­i­mum in­dul­gence

Our pick of the lux­ury mod­els that add su­per han­dling and out­right pace

Herald Sun - Motoring - - PRESTIGE -

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

AMG C63

BMW M2

Audi RS7

BMW X5 M

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