The battle for power will forever be upon us and until I have children, the M5 vs E63 war will wage on. With the current crop of what I like to call Hypercar Super Saloons making power in excess of that of a Ferrari 458, when will it be enough? Or will we go the route of football where instead of salary caps, these cars will see power caps and restrictions.
30 Years Ago...
The BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class have gone toe -to-toe trying to prove which is better. This has gone on to be one of the toughest automotive battles in history til this very day and month in 2018. Where one claims victory, the other bounces back with an updated model to conquer, and so on and so forth. But where did the fierce rivalry begin?
The Mercedes Benz W124, The First E-Class
The W124 was a mid-sized family sedan car produced from November 1984 to August 1995. It was a car many would claim was much further ahead of its time than its rival, the BMW. For example, the rear suspension of the E-Class featured the Mercedes multi-link axle introduced in 1982 with the Mercedes 190 of which is now a standard on many modern cars today. Much of the E-Class features were advanced and ahead of its time, incorporating innovations that have been adopted throughout the industry. At the time, it had one of the lowest co-efficient of drag of any vehicle of the time due to its aerodynamic body, that includes a plastic molding for the undercarriage to streamline airflow beneath the car, reducing fuel consumption and wind noise. It had a single windscreen wiper at its base that extended the wiper's reach to the top corners of the windscreen, more than any other traditional car.
The E34 BMW
Before I continue to write this piece, I would like to state that for the purpose of this battle, I chose to focus on these two beginning era cars for the battle going forward. While BMW did make an incredible E28 M5 to rival the 230E, the real focus as a motoring journalist personally began here with the E34. Built from the 2nd of November 1987 until June 1996 this was BMW's answer to the E-Class with a huge array of models but more so, the M5. This was the car to directly take on the 500E, however this is where the story gets tricky.
E34 vs 500E, Let's Be Fair...
Okay, so before you fight me in the comments again, after some research it is unfair to say that the 500E was the answer to the E34 M5. Merc have always been putting massive race-like engines into cars since the late 60s, prime example being the 300 SEL 6.3. Now both the E34 M5 and 500E were hand-built in strictly limited numbers. Fun fact, for the 500E, Porsche lent its chassis knowledge for the four-door project in the late '80s in the process and amongst other things commanded a crazy $85,000 price tag. The E34 M5 is powered by the 3.6 L 232 kW S38 straight-6 engine, later upgraded to a 3.8 L making 250 kW. The Benz had a 5.0L V8 engine derived from the 500 SL and made a healthy 240kW. Both cars did 100km/h in just over 5.5 seconds while things such as weight and cornering were just seperated by minor margins, and as a petrolhead one could argue that this was the first initial Super Saloon Fight.
Bring On 1998!
This is where things started to heat up. In 1998, BMW created the E39 M5 and the biggest change was dumping the straight six in favour of home made European muscle.
The M5 borrowed a S62 V8 from the Z8 and the result was 4.9 litres pumping out 294 kW at 6,600 rpm and 500 Nm of torque. I know, by today's standards it might not be impressive, but back then seeing number like this in a family saloon made ones eyes bulge in excitement.
In response to the Bavarians, Mercedes created the E55 AMG. Fitted with a 5.4-liter V8 making 257kW and 530 Nm of torque. There was however a problem, the E55 could only be bought with a 5-speed automatic gearbox while the Bimmer had a 6 speed manual. After numerous testing by journalists, the battle was close, and while the Merc had all the tech and gadgets its automatic gearbox would be the let down, and the E39 would walk away in victory being the better all round car to have.
Y2K, Technology, V10s, Superchargers And One Defining Moment
We all saw it coming...when we read the spec sheet before release we all marvelled and knew that this was it, the moment a reigning champion would become a king. A 373kW, 5 litre V10 that redlined at 8250rpm. It wasn't a surprise really. Following the last M5, the successor E60 knocked it out the park. The previous gen V8 M5 handled great, drove well and was probably the last of its kind to be built with metal, but it was really an engine car and by that I mean all of the E39 was built around the heart and voice of it all, so what of the new one? Well that became a car of chassis. Any M car has to be direct and responsive, the car must be a knife edge racer good for turning as well as accelerating and that's what the E60 M5 was all about, a pure driver's car.
In 2003, some two years before the Bimmer was brought to life, the Benz boys already had an answer to the E39 defeat and it was all in the name of torque. Welcome to the Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG, at the time it debuted as the fastest production sedan in the world. The car was very different, It relied on torque as apposed to the Bimmer, and tons of it! Its 350kW figure was the headline BMW M had to beat, but there was no way the M5 could out muscle the 700Nm from the 5.4 litre supercharged V8. Sadly, the E55 lived on the market for only 3 years and in its time could not match the sophistication and all round class that the V10 M5 had to offer. That being said, the Benz was no slouch or a bad car, for what it was, the car was a masterclass of what was capable at the time, but all of us knew there was more from Mercedes to come.
The Names 63...E63
While BMW enjoyed the success of the E60 M5 and the awards it would get from the engine, Mercedes hit back hard with the W211 E63 AMG, a facelift to the E-Class and E55 AMG in 2006. The supercharger was ditched in favour of good old displacement and grunt. The 5.4 litre V8 was replaced with an enormous 6.2 litre naturally aspirated V8.
The result was 378kW and 630Nm of torque thrusting the new super saloon to 100km/h in 4.5 seconds. Compared to the previous E55 AMG, the E63 AMG had more power but less torque, enabling it to be mated to the newer 7G-Tronic automatic transmission. Journalists at the time of testing the new E63 claimed that this was the fastest saloon car in the world. Astonishing figures coupled with ground breaking technology stumped the Bavarians with this update giving them the title of best performance saloon car.
Dawn of A New Era. Controversial, But Still Mighty.
If you said to a BMW enthusiast in 2008 that the next M5 would be turbocharged, he would have laughed at you and said, "No ways!" M cars are all about epic N/A engines! Well Mr Enthusiast, BMW did just that. In 2011 the new M5 would follow emission regulations and environment acts, ditch the V10 screamer in favour of a more Polar Bear friendly turbocharged engine.
The F10 M5 was the first of a new breed of M-cars and upgrades for the M brand. It featured an all new 4.4 litre twin turbocharged V8 motor with 412kW and 680Nm of torque. The old SMG gearbox was ditched for a more silky smooth 7-speed dual clutch gearbox and brakes could now be upgraded to optional carbon ceramics. 0-100km/h was done in just 4.4 seconds making it at the time faster than the E63, fuel consumption was down 31% and the car recorded a lap time of 7:55 around the Nürburgring race track, which was 18 seconds faster than the V10. Your move AMG, and they did just that.
6.2 to 5.5
Making its debut already in 2009, the new W212 E63 was already kicking ass and taking awards. The new E-Class had the same powertrain as the SL63 AMG, including AMG's 6.2-liter V8 and the SPEEDSHIFT MCT 7-speed sports automatic transmission. It had a 386kW, 630Nm engine and sprinted to 100km/h in 4.3 seconds, it was already a monster but around the same time in 2011 the new emission laws kicked in forcing the E to downscale to a 5.5 litre twin turbocharged V8. Power remained identical, however performance upgrades now became an option not only for the Benz, but for the Bimmer. While the two cars were neck and neck in battle, subtle changes gave one the advantage over the other.
The S vs The Competition Pack
In any form of sports or physical activity you can always find something to help aid your performance, while it may not change you physically, the benefits are internal and the results are nothing short of crazy. While controversial in living beings, this form of competitiveness made it's way into cars and for the battle of super saloon cars, Mercedes added this to their arsenal with the 2009 E63. It was the optional AMG Performance Package and included lightweight, forged light-alloy wheels with better tyres, stiffer suspension, a limited-slip differential, a special three-spoke sport steering wheel, and a reprogramming of the electronic top speed limiter to 300 km/h up from 250 km/h. Power however remained unchanged.
In 2013, things changed dramatically for Mercedes. When the 6.2 litre V8 was dropped for the twin-turbocharged 5.5 litre V8 a restrategize was in order for the so called "Performance Pack". In October 2013, Mercedes introduced the AMG S-model. This version of the E packed no less than 430 kW and replaced the earlier Performance Package model. As standard, European and some North American markets that were 63 S-Models would receive the 4Matic system. Meanwhile, power of the "normal" E63 AMG increased to the same level as the previous Performance Package model. Normal, yes sure, 0-100km/h in 4 seconds or less normal.
The Bavarian Answer
After a few battles and defeats to the E63S, mostly in shootouts and online drag race videos, BMW released the F10 with a Competition Pack in 2014. So what did it bring? Well a new kidney grille design, some optional adaptive LED headlights, an updated colour palette, and new leathers and interior trims and most importantly a power hike and chassis tweak. The 4.4 litre twin turbo V8 desperately needed an edge over the monstrous E63S. Power was hiked to 423kW, while torque remained the same at 680Nm and a reduced 0-100 time of 4.1 seconds was achieved. Later on, the Pure Metal Edition, a South African only built car, celebrating with the 30 Jahre models or 30 Years of M5 editions sold globally, further upgraded power to 441kW, 700Nm and a 0-100 time of 3.9 seconds, but was it enough? To some, no, and for other yes. The gap felt like it was getting better and better for Mercedes with power upgrades, refinement and the confidence of 4WD. The M5 to some journalists felt defeated but a lot more of a drivers car than the E, but for all round compatibility it would seem that the Mercedes would walk away with the title yet again beating BMW at its own game, that was until the end of the M5 cycle when M Division would announce that the next M5 would be All Wheel Drive. Could this be the turning point?
An all wheel drive Mercedes? Strange but true, but this wasn't the only way the Benz boys hit first at BMW, no. The 2016 E63 was an all wheel drive monster on paper. This became a became a battle of Top Trumps. Mercedes then added it's new M177 engine first used in the C63. In favour of efficiency and emissions, the big brutal 5.5 litre twin-turbocharged V8 was downscaled to a 4 litre twin-turbocharged V8. The result was 430kW and 750Nm and a 0-100km/h time of 3.5 seconds, but as always, there is more. but the biggest wow was that it also had rear-wheel drive. In fact, back then it was the first car in the world to be both. It was also the first time in E-Class history where the car would have a nine-speed gearbox and Drift mode...yes...Drift mode. Finally you could be Takumi Fujiwara and make your own expensive version of Initial D, that's if you get the reference. Did we also mention it has nine gears?
The changes never ended there. Opt for the S model and you will get a ludicrous 450kW, 850Nm and a new 0-100km/h time of 3.4 seconds. The S also came with bigger brakes – 390mm front discs instead of 360mm, the option being 402mm carbon ceramics instead. Included in the S is a Track Pace app, dynamic engine mounts and an electronically controlled torque vectoring rear differential instead of a mechanical locking diff. The big difference is that the S is also the only one with Drift Mode. To put that into perspective, a Ferrari 458 Italia doesn't have any of that power or torque at any RPM ever. I do know that it is a supercar and would ace this car in a heartbeat on a track, but bear in mind the Mercedes has seating for 5 comfortably and boot space luggage included for the travellers. Oh, and while we are here, the top speed for the S model is a casual 300km/h if you opt for the AMG Driver's Package.
The Gauntlet Was Thrown Down
2017 was a big year for BMW, everyone had eyes on them to see how they would answer to mighty Top Trump E63. The biggest change was drivetrain. Like the rumours we had heard, BMW, like Mercedes-AMG did before it joined the four-wheel drive club in the form of M xDrive and it too had a RWD mode to restore balance to the M Power signature dish. The car received subtle upgrades in the looks department and while compared to the E, the Bimmer began to look like an all round better car.
Power and drive was a big one, the F10 lagged behind so what was in store for the new M5? The engine remained an unchanged 4.4 litre twin-turbo V8 but got given a boost in power to 441kW. Torque jumped to 750Nm and was transferred to a new gearbox. BMW ditched the somewhat old and dying 7 Speed DCT and equipped the F90 with an eight-speed automatic transmission. By now that won't sound like much but the Bimmer went on the Atkins and shed 40kg resulting in a 0-100 km/h in 3.4 seconds. Fair play and Even Stevens to the standard E63, however in some parts of the world, only the E63 S models were sold, resulting in a thrashing once again to the M5...but only by a tiny fraction. Apon closer inspection the results seen varied and was due to weather conditions, tyres, driver weight or driver error on launch. The list could go on and on.
The Ace Up BMW's Sleeve
Who wants to be defeated soon after release? Not BMW, thats for sure. Shortly after the M5s release and sooner than most expected, BMW finally gave the answer to the E63S in 2018 with the release of the M5 Competition Pack. A closer, edgier but mostly direct answer to S model rival. After almost 30 years and what seemed like a dying battle to the Bavarians, they finally hit back in what is proving to be the bigger hammer to throw down. While writing this toward the end of July 2018, the car is being launched internationally to media so here is what we know.
Let The Battle Begin!
BMW have bounced back hard with the Comp Pack so here are the headlines. Power is beefed up from 441kW to 460kW making it officially more powerful than the E63S at 450kW however torque remains the same at 750Nm. The Benz still reigns king at 850Nm but remember kids, torque isn't everything. Weight for the Comp Pack is 1865kg as apposed to the Mercs 1880kg, this resulting in an improved 0-100km/h time of 3.3 seconds, and 0-200km/h in 10.8 seconds, When compared to the E63S times of 3.4 and 11.5 seconds, the title of winner starts to become clear. To add a cherry on top to this, The M5 Comp Pack will top out at 250km/h and with the M Driver’s pack at 305km/h, just 5km/h faster than the E63 S’s top speed of 300km/h with an AMG Driver’s pack. Yet again, small differences that will go a long way and terms of BMW, they certainly have played catch up.
Where To From Here?
I am pretty sure you expected this long and drawn out battle for me to end with "Your Move AMG" and you wouldn't be wrong, we now wait for the M5 Competition to be released and tested against its rival, but we all know that soon there will be a new E63S with ludicrous amounts of power and even more astonishing facts and numbers, so this brings me back to my statement I made in my first paragraph.
Time For Caps?
Go with me here for second, both cars in current final form make a combined output of 1200hp. After some fair amount of research I have come the conclusion that the 5 Series and E-Class battle has been going on for just over 30 years. In that time both companies have spent billions trying to out do each other to make the best possible product, but when will it end? You see my theory is that in Formula 1, each car has one purpose and role to play, and that is to win. Yes, F1 does have the FIA who introduced new laws for downsizing engine capacities and fuel restrictions, but that in turn forced all teams to think out the box for solutions to be better. The point I am making is that will the two sedan rivals and the other competitors it faces see power caps and restrictions and have to rely on things such as technology and weight? The same principal followed by F1?
We all know that the next generation of M and AMG cars will have some form of Hybrid and Electric power. I do make a fair point about the power caps and restrictions but I highly doubt it. The next phase of battle for these giants will be in technology and electric power. Hybrids will be introduced first and thereafter fully electric cars in 10-15 years time. Until such a time, we literally will have to wait for the next Chess move. For now BMW have called checkmate.