words by BOBBY ANG | photography by BOBBY ANG & AARON LEE





There was a time and era where cars represented where they originated from. Ferraris were tested in Fiorano, Supras tested in Suzuka, Corvettes in Laguna Seca and 911s were honed in Nürburgring. Americans were good in unbelievably hard-wearing engines, the Japanese seemed able to simplify everything the Germans complicate, and the Italians just minded their own business of only comparing horses from Maranello to bulls from Sant’Agata Bolognese.

Driving or owning them alternatively is as if a magical journey of tasting the best culinary offers from the corners of the world. Each has its own unique, unforgettable, and distinct character. Each car maker had to resort to their own factory workers and engineers to build everything from scratch. The long shafts, the pulleys, the con-rods, everything. Every car maker brings along its story‍‍‍ and with it, their emotion and soul.

As an ex-employee of Alfa Romeo, Enzo Ferrari famously claimed “I don’t build cars, I build engines, and then I had to build a car to carry it.” On the other hand, Mazda’s building was the only standing structure after the bombing of Hiroshima. Serving as the ‍‍‍community centre and government office, it was arguably the epicentre where Japan began healing its wounds. Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach left Nikolaus Otto’s company and founded DMG. Augustav Otto soon turned his father’s company into Bavaria Flugzeugwerke and incorporated BMW in 1916. DMG soon merged with Benz & Cie and incorporated into Mercedes-Benz in 1926.

All of them have an amazing history that culminates into unique flavours, and in this context, the torch bearer of each company’s glorifying heritage are more often than not referred to the likes of Audi Rennsport, Mercedes-AMG, BMW Motorsports, and Alfa Romeo’s Quadrifoglio Verde. From these specialised outfits come cars that are only possible when these car makers put in all that they have and all that they could. What about the run-off-the-mill, bread-and-butter variants of B200s and Audi A1s? Well let’s just say products that doesn’t even require two percent of these juggernaut’s engineering muscle, carries proportionately less of the story that shaped their individuality.

But there’s a worrying trend developing in recent years, or should I say, increasingly worrying ever since Nissan brought the 2007 GTR to Nurburgring and "beat" Germany’s pride by a good 34 second margin. You see it doesn’t matter whether one works for Mercedes-Benz or Audi or BMW, every German hurts a little bit when the 911 Turbo gets a smack down from Japan’s Supercar slayer. More so in Nordschleife where the 911 was honed. Couple this with the explosion of social media, all of a sudden the perfect storm brewed, both for internet fanfare and how each company viewed the case of an internet keyboard dick fight between 13-year-old fans of each company.

What’s the issue? One may ask. Well there are many, first of which, Nurburgring times are unreliable. It is the automotive equivalent of doing a fuel efficient cycle test through KL traffic. Sometimes it’s smooth, sometimes you have so much time standing still you can check whether that person sitting at the roadside has a smooth complexion or not.

Why do I say so? Well, a simple change in temperature could result in a 10 seconds‍‍‍ difference at the Ring. A different tyre could easily mean 30 seconds difference in this longest track in the world. This is especially rampant when Honda claimed the Civic Type-R is the fastest production FWD car in the world around Nurburgring. When I asked its Chief Engineer Hideki Kakinuma whether the Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres and the roll cage fitted to the new Type-R that set the record is available as an option for buyers - “Nope.” Well, that’s a far cry from the standard Continental Sports Contact 6 fitted to the CTR. Not that those tyres are bad, in fact they’re benchmarked to beat the Pilot Super Sports, but the Cup 2 tyres are semi slicks, excellent in the dry but useless in wet; I repeat, completely useless in the rain. With the addition of a roll cage, I can only say they’ve ‘cheated’ 20-30 seconds off the time they set.

The infatuation with the Ring times didn’t just ruin credibility, but also affected how some of our favourite cars drive. The Porsche 911 GT3 RS is a great car, but in order to achieve the best time possible, it also means that the car will no longer be available in manual. Not only so, the gearshifts have to be so smooth that changing gears through a high speed bank turn won’t even affect the balance of the car. While that’s a go‍‍‍od thing, it also takes away the sensation of engagement as well as the rewarding feeling of mastering techniques required to handle the car.

In fact, in the quest to achieve the best times at the Ring, to beat segment peers, more and more performance cars are tweaked to be good at delivering great Ring records but slowly deviating away from the most important aspect of what performance cars should bring - their very own take on how a performance car should be, their unique solution, their own recipe, own menu.

Not with Mercedes-AMG though. Having driven two AMG-fettled C-Classes back to back, I can’t help but cheer with joy that Affalterbach seemed like they couldn’t care less about the Nurburgring. Not that they don’t focus on performance, but they seem to be focusing on the thrill of driving instead of the munching up of the BurgerkingRing in record time.

The AMG C 43 Coupe is an absolute rebel while the AMG C 63 is like a sledgehammer hanging on a string from third floor, swinging its tail back and forth with the slightest prod of the throttle past mid range. The C 43 of course doesn’t do what its rear wheel drive siblings does, but the engine is a gem of a V6, eager in revving, and sounds great on its way there. The transmission is the exact kind of stuff others wouldn’t bring to the track, it violently jolts the car in Sports Plus, down or up shifts. It even has a front end that is so manic that I managed to light up the ESP with just a sudden veer of the steering one lock and back - all while my foot is off the throttle at only 37km/h.

The C 63 being a sedan on the other hand, doesn’t have the C-Class Coupe range’s super fast steering rack, they’re not precise, but to hell with precision and grace. The thing that they both precisely delivered? Joy. That broad smile alone from driving them is worth every penny, worth every Nurburgring tests they skipped, worth every speed cameras you triggered.

Th‍‍‍e 367hp from the C 43 felt like a 450hp naturally aspirated V8 (along with what I suspected as synthesised sound), that 700 Nm from the C 63 felt like a freaking tsunami. The V6 pitches and screams while the V8 burbles and howls. Both absolutely maniacal in the way they interpret ‘Sport Plus’. The C 63 would happily leave behind stinking used rubber everywhere it had fun, while the C 43 would ride the bejesus out of you if you thread the throttle lightly in Sport Plus, it wants you to go full bore, it wants you to spank it rough.

I don’t think I need to go through the interior of both of them any more than I need to tell you how great BMWs drive or how lovely Volvo’s new design is. Both had standard C-Class interiors with those beautiful AMG seats fitted, bits of carbon fibre here, some Alcantara there, and of course the beautiful design of Mercedes-Benz interiors and a mix of high end materials with the occasional cheap plastics in areas most doesn’t pay too much attention to. And nope, the left foot rests still aren’t there, the Comand system is still beautifully designed with lovely graphics and interface but totally not user friendly at all - well basically like all C-Class does - the best selling car in its segment currently.

There are flaws, certainly many, but that also depends on which judging criteria one sets forth from. These AMGs are nimble and agile but not precise, not serious, they’re powerful and sounded thirsty but in actual fact they’re pretty efficient, they came with expensive interior designs but not the most expensive build, they’re both branded AMG even though only the C63 AMG helms from Affalterbach with a hand-built engine. I couldn’t care less to be honest, hand built or not, all that matters is how big of an impression cars leave you behind with, and both of them certainly do.

Think of it this way, performance cars that focused too much on Nurburgring are like painters sitting in a quiet room with the tip of their brush pointing towards the horizon, and these AMGs are the graffiti spray can boys outside the walls.

Maybe performance cars that focused too much on Nurburgring are also like equestrian riding gentlemen galloping gracefully and skilfully along the course, and these AMGs are the rodeos who are heehawing with a cigarette in between their teeth.

You can be seriously trying to have a fun day at Sepang hitting 2 minute 10s, or you can just have fun at the parking lot throwing doughnuts shooting paintball out of the driver’s window.

Think of it this way, what if Batman was created by Joker to save Gotham City?

Think of it this way, what if the lunatic was the only sober guy in Nurburgring's drunk fest?

Life’s short, why bother with Nurburgring’s 7 minutes blah blah?


Why so serious?

words by BOBBY ANG | photography by BOBBY ANG & AARON LEE