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How Automobiles Work


We tried shooting this
test three times. And each time the weather did
its best to thwart us. In November it rained too
hard for Neil to shoot. And remember Neil’s Welsh,
so he’s actually allergic to the sun. In December it snowed,
which was no good. And we also used an M6
convertible that time. But it was so wobbly, compared
to the SL, that when we were booked for January,
I used a coupe. Whereupon it snowed again. So we drove as far south as
possible to find green verges. So this is the M6 and the SL63
with zero continuity. Beginning in sunny, beautiful
Cornwall. I want you to imagine that
the year is 1988. And that I’m wearing shoulder
pads, and braces, and that kind of stuff, and carrying
a Filofax. And we’ve decided to get
together the fastest BMW 6 Series and the fastest
Mercedes SL. Those would have been, according
to my memory bank, the M635 CSi the 500 SL. Together, those two cars would
have had a power output of just over 500 horsepower. Fast forward to 2013, and their
equivalents, the SL63 and the new M6, have over
1100 horsepower. Sometimes, I find it difficult
to justify cars like this. Because they’re not sports
cars, and they’re not full on GT cars. So let’s find out what they’re
actually like to use. And whether they’re just too
powerful and too much for modern motoring. But I suspect, they’re actually
rather good fun. But every cloud has
a silver lining. And the upside here is that
after two aborted tests, I’ve done lots of miles in
both of these cars. And discovered some very
interesting things. First of all, the Mercedes SL is
what everyone thinks of as being a bit of a barge. If I showed you SL Mercedes
versus BMW M6 on a piece of paper, you’d assume that the
Merc was the big flabby one, and that the M6 was the smaller,
lighter, sharper one. That is not the case. The SL is entirely made
of aluminium. It’s actually lighter,
or pretty much as light, as the M6. And yet it has a very heavy
electric hood mechanism in it. The upshot is a car that
drives quite unlike its predecessor. And that was a car that I ran
for a year and really thoroughly enjoyed. This car is stiff. It’s agile. It just feels really quite
sporting in a way that you wouldn’t expect of an SL. We can’t discuss this car
without discussing its looks, can we? Because it’s not that
pretty a machine. It’s very effective. And I’ll come to all
of its dynamic plus points in a minute. But I struggle to say
it’s good looking. OK, fully AMGed up with fancy
matte paint, and some bits and bobs, and a carbon plaque
hanging off it. It’s great. But then for 140,000 pounds, it
should look pretty great. From in here, it really feels
like a 140,000 pound car. The cabin is beautiful
and expensive. It feels more expensive
than the BMW’s cabin, as well, to me. And also, you can actually
fathom the controls, because it doesn’t have iDrive. The clever thing about the SL
is that, in my position, you can actually review this car
as a coupe, if you want to. We’re in the middle of winter. It’s just about snowing now. It’s horrid, so I didn’t even
think about the fact that the roof goes down. And I could review it as
a convertible, as well. It just doesn’t even
feel like the roof comes off, at the moment. It’s incredibly strong. To me, with the roof up,
this thing feels more rigid than the M6. I don’t understand why, but
maybe that’s because it’s got this clever aluminium
construction. The powertrain in the Mercedes
is extraordinary. Just a little bit more
power than the BMW. Just over 560 horsepower, but
the torque is extraordinary; 900 newton-meters, that’s
663 foot-pounds of torque in real money. And that just means that the car
has on-demand acceleration of a quantity that is
difficult to use on the public road. It’s just so fast. Mercedes probably don’t want me
to say this, but this car is more accelerative
than an SLS. And this is supposed
to be the cruiser. You sit nice and
low in the car. The steering wheel comes
to meet you. You can set yourself up like
you’re in a sports car. It really is impressive. The electric power steering,
yes, it feels over light and lacking in any kind of
real connection. But, and I say this quite a
lot, after five minutes driving it, I can place
it exactly where I want to put it. The motor just sounds
oh, superb. Just wonderful, glorious V8. Loads of noise out the back. Makes the BMW feel a bit
contrived, I have to say. Overall performance? Well, Neil and I have been in
convoy for the last few days. He’s insistent the BMW’s
quicker, but he’s wrong. This is a faster
car than an M6. So I’ve driven these things
on motorways. I’ve driven them fast, slow. I’ve driven them on
a bit of circuit. I’ve driven them on the road. I’ve done skiddy
stuff in them. I’ve just pretty much done
everything that you can do in an M6. Yesterday, for example, I did
about 450 miles during the day, on a mixture of roads. And I came away with what I
think is quite a strange conclusion for me. And that is I prefer
this car to an M5. Why do I prefer it to an M5,
even though it’s got this whopping price premium over
the four-door car? I love the way it looks. It kind of has a character
all of its own. I describe it as being a little
bit GTI like, actually. The way that the gear changes
are so immediate. The way the car feels massive
and, yet, still actually quite chuckable, is quite GTI like. And, of course, being two-wheel
drive, it has none of that car’s traction. So it wants to go sideways
everywhere. This engine, I think, oddly
enough– because it spends so much time trying to be
characterful and throw odd fake noises at you through
the cabin– it’s a bit contrived,
at times. But there’s no denying the
effectiveness of a twin-turbo engine of this swept capacity
that can rev to over 7,000 RPM. And compared to the
Merc, it has got a throttle-response advantage. Having those turbos in between
the V definitely gives you a throttle-response advantage. Although, I don’t really feel
it that much on the road. Because the Merc’s got
so much extra torque. 560 horsepower in this thing. 502 foot-pounds of
torque, those are monster numbers, monster. But then this thing weighs
1,925 kilograms. So it’s a right old lump. But the performance on the road
is just the majestic. There’s torque, so you can
just mooch past stuff. This double-clutch gear box is
really good in auto mode. But incisive, and fast, and
immediate when you want to change gear yourself. You sit low in the car. It’s a classic BMW cabin. Bangle is gone now. So everything’s sort of
angled towards me. I feel like I’m the center
of the environment here. And I want to feel that way. It’s a great GT car in the
classic sense, although its GT credentials are undone by a
couple of little things. First of all, it’s actually
quite noisy in the cabin sometimes, at speed. It’s got a lot of tire noise. It’s the tire noise
that affects it. And it’s very surface
sensitive. So if you pick up just the wrong
surface, it’s noisier in here than it is in the SL. Which is surprising because
the SL doesn’t actually have a roof. The other thing is the
structure of the car. It doesn’t feel absolutely,
enormously strong. I’m sure it passes every
crash test imaginable. And it’s a very safe car. But now and again, when you
thump it over a bump, there’s a shimmy that comes through
the body and the steering column takes a bit
of a wobble. Now, you’re probably wondering
why we didn’t use an M6 cab verses the SL? Well, partly because I messed
up on the booking. Sorry about that. But I’m glad that we didn’t. Because I drove an M6 cab before
Christmas, in one of the failed attempts to
shoot this piece. And it did wobble too much. It wobbled so much that it
wasn’t actually an adequate rival for the SL. This definitely feels like
an M car, as well. It feels special. It feels a bit naughty. It’s got a lovely look to it,
lovely stance on the road. Cabin, lots of high
quality materials. As I said, nicely
driver-centric. IDrive I still don’t get. I mean, it’s just utterly
baffling, what’s going on up here. But when you get the phone
hooked up, and you can listen to DAB, and the nav’s
directing you on the head-up display– you do think to yourself, I
could just drive to Geneva, and it wouldn’t be
a problem at all. Because fuel consumption is so
much better now, with the twin-turbo motor, we’ve
got some range. So again, more of a GT car. And I would say that I haven’t
played around with all of these driver control
things, as well. You’ve got three engine modes,
three suspension modes, three steering modes. I just leave the thing in all
comfort, on the road. That means that if you
absolutely hammer it over a bumpy A or B road, you probably
will start to feel the car float a bit. But I don’t mind that. I just don’t want the
really harsh ride. In the softest mode, on
British roads, this is actually quite a surprisingly
comfortable car. Apart from that wee
bit of noise. Anyhow, enough talking. Let’s go fast. Summer tires, over 500
horsepower, rear-wheel drive, and slush bring inevitable
consequences. Both cars have mechanical
locking diffs. And they will both
drift [INAUDIBLE] standards. In these conditions, the
traction control really never stops working. I reckon you’d do a
set of rear break pads in about a month. The BMW’s less severe torque
makes it easier to slide. But the SL still runs
it very, very close. Fleetwood Mac sang about making
loving fun, but these two make drifting fun. The SL doesn’t make life
easy for itself. To my eyes, it should look
better than it does. Yes, the AMG treatment helps,
but everyone we asked said they preferred the
way the M6 looks. But then, within the context of
this test, the M badge is a little misleading, isn’t it? Because you’d expect it to be
the sharper car of the two, when actually it feels
bigger and looser. The SL can be a roadster
and a coupe. Yes, you can buy an M6 cab,
but it wobbles too much. The Merc’s engine is more
impressive than the BMW’s. But the M6, somehow, has a kind
of two-wheel drive Nissan GT-R appeal to it. If I had to choose one,
I’d take the M6. But I’d probably spend
half the year wishing I’d taken the SL. Both are cracking cars. [REVVING]

81 thoughts on “BMW M6 v Mercedes SL63 AMG – /CHRIS HARRIS ON CARS

  1. BMW over Mercedes anyday! Any BMW is better looking than any Mercedes by far.  And, BMW's are faster and handle better.  Mercedes are too feminine looking and have always been unattractive vehicle's.  So what if Mercedes makes their V8's sound louder than the BMW V8's.  BMW makes their V8's sound quieter on purpose because BMW's are Stoic vehicle's.  Stoic = Not caring what other's think and prefer to be more subtle.

  2. What is up with car manufacturers and electric steering? Jesus Christ! GO back to power! Nothing was wrong with it!

  3. The M6 is a scalpel
    The SL is a hammer..

    What happens when you smash a scalpel with a hammer?.. The hammer is fine.

  4. Lets be honest here – If you can afford one, you can buy the other one. I'd have the BMW for most days, the week, and the SL for the weekend. Or, I'd just buy a Rolls Royce Dawn if I could have that sort of money. Different machine all together. Two fantastic cars – I say choose either one, they'll both do you good!

  5. M6 most likely had run-flats explaining the ride and stability issues, mine used too "bounce" off bumps until I had them changed too Yokohama 8 R's completely changed the drive

  6. I honestly never understood why people hate the looks of the sl. At the very least I think the back is beautiful .

  7. Having the turbos in the middle of the V is a horrible engineering invention,, it literally cooks the engine let's say around 45k miles.Tons of trouble and major engine & electronic issues..but it does look good

  8. I donno what is wrong with my eyes but, I love how this gen SL looks (new 2017 one looks like the old one with a melted bumper doe XP). I wouldn't call it beautiful but just….. badass.

  9. everyone says the i-drive is confusing to use. I have a lot of hire cars with work, from a BMW 5 series to a Merc A class and……. yes once i had a Citroen Picasso. Basically I have had a lot of cars to use, the I-drive is so the easiest to use, I hardly look at the screen to use it. This may also be down to myself owning a BMW 2012 one series (f20). But still easy to pick up and use in my opinion.

  10. agreed with his verdict.. ofc you'd take the bmw and say its for looks and performance even tho the mercs prove to drive better sometimes… when it should be the other way around

  11. Bloke leaves the M6 in comfort settings, and complains it's not hard edged enough. You're smarter than that, Chris.

  12. Why in the world would you compare a 4 door sedan to a two seat convertible? Next week, the Audi RS6 takes on the Hummer!

  13. I have a SL63 and M6 gran coupe with comp pack. SL is as good as it gets, a brilliant car. M6 is lovely, but nowhere near as much fun, but does seats four in comfort.

  14. I don't hate BMW's but they just all look the same for the most part… (I am glad they are bringing the z4 back tho). AMG sounds and looks better in my opinion.

  15. AMG mercs are european muscle cars and normal cars ARE better in everyday driving.
    BMW otherhand is very agile and gives much more fun in curvy and sporty roads.
    Have had both brand cars..and what i can say…if you want adventure go with bmw, if you want just comfortable and easy everyday driving go for Merc.

  16. I have a SL and it isn't beautiful except for the way it works. It's fast, comfortable and the trunk is large enough for an extended trip. It also works equally well as a coupe or convertible and that makes it really beautiful!

  17. I never get the understand how a journalist from Harris' caliber can make such a massive mistake with car categories. The M6 ultimately is a 5-series coupé, it's less powerful, less expensive etc than the Merc.The SL is obviously an S class roadster and the price shows it. The M6's rival is the CLS, though the 2-door M6 doesn't really have a Mercedes' equivalent.

  18. WAIT, he left the M6 in Comfort Mode???? How can you complain about the performance and leave it in Comfort mode? Doesn't engage the M Mode settings…………….

  19. i would for M6, for those who choose merc just coz of sound. I would install more high performance exhaust sys. Also M6 looks so sexy over ugly merc.

  20. in DTM race, Bmw always kept merc in dust.. dont forget..To me, McLaren and Bmw are the master of engineering and dynamics. merc is nothing close to Bmw.

  21. If that BMW is on run flats then that will explain the road noise and road surface affecting the steering, mine has them, I’m used to it and to be honest I like the fact that they are so tough compared to normal tyres

  22. but a wobble in the chassis??? I'm gonna cry lol I wanted the M6 instead of my 2010 335i cabriolet (convertible) but nevermind now I like the handling too much

  23. Conclusion: SL is lighter, faster, stiffer than the M6 yet the roof comes off. M6 pumps fake engine noise into the cabin, SL does not. But the M6 looks better and while the SL may be better on paper, there is something about the M6 that makes Chris take it over the SL. Fine.

  24. M6 is wayyy more reliable, the design is awesome. The SL has air suspension in the SL, out of warranty is a nightmare. Would stay far away from one. M6 all day every day

  25. You thought you had an SL. You should have got the 2011 SL65 properly armed with the AMG V12 as Bruno Saaco intended. Mechanical steering actually provides more road feel in the heavier 2011.

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