Peak Super-Saloon Era
2008 was a year to remember
Super-saloons today offer REAL supercar performance with the practicality that comes with four doors and a boot. There are some great options today, from M3s and M5s to C63s and E63s to even Quadrifoglios. We can thank turbocharging for much of the performance of current small super-saloons, the RS4 (albeit in estate form only) with a twin-turbo V6, the M3 with a twin-turbo straight-six and the C63 with a twin-turbo V8. They are all incredibly fast and refined but perhaps lack rawness which is why super-saloons peaked in 2008.
That was the year Audi, BMW and Mercedes all had small super-saloons and they all had NA V8s.
Audi B7 RS4 (2006-2008)
Understated but with enough wheel-arch bulge
4.2L, 420hp, 430Nm/317lb-ft
Probably the best Audi RS ever! Performance Audis were and maybe still are known for understeering but in this case things were different. It had great handling but the star of the show was the engine. Revving up to 8,250rpm this was also the engine of choice for Audi's first supercar, the R8. Unlike previous and current RS4s you could enjoy it in saloon, estate and convertible form. Oh and you could ONLY get it with a manual.
BMW E90 M3 (2007-2013)
Bulging bonnet to accommodate the V8
4.0L, 414hp, 400Nm/295lb-ft
To compete with the RS4, BMW had to replace the E46 M3 with something special. This M3 sticks-out in M3 history as the only one with a V8, it didn't have a straight-six like the previous two generations and the current one, but that was never an issue because this engine was a real peach. Like the B7 RS4 it liked to rev, all the way to 8,400rpm in fact. Compared to it's rivals the M3 was more performance oriented, almost motorsport-like. It had a dual-clutch option as well as coupé or convertible versions.
Mercedes C63 AMG (2008-2015)
6.2L, 457hp, 600Nm/443lb-ft
To complete the trio in 2008 was the C63. However, it offered something different. The massive 6.2-litre engine offered loads of torque instead of a screaming top-end. The now legendary M156 engine, the first engine fully developed by AMG, made it a tail-happy, tyre-destroying animal. You could also have it in estate and coupé versions but unfortunately it only came with a 7-speed auto.
Whichever car you chose you were in for a real treat. Three unique V8s and exciting in their own way with the practicality and every day use of a small saloon car. Today's super-saloons are faster but they are also heavier and lack the sound and drama of a high revving engine or the burble of a high displacement engine. These cars really are the last of their kind.
Honorable mention goes to the Lexus IS F, in 2008 Lexus also released a NA V8 powered super-saloon. Lexus' first effort at making a sporty car resulted in a 5-litre engine which produced 421hp and 503Nm/371lb-ft. It was criticised for not being as exciting as the German establishment but it has become a rare and desirable car.
Also let's not forget that in 2008 BMW also made the E60 M5, yes the one with the V10. In fact the engine in the E90 M3 is derived from the E60 M5, bore and stroke are exactly the same but it had two fewer cylinders.
What a year that was...