Fascination means WOW and the three exhibits present at the start line manage to get a tune even from the simple reading of the technical charts. Suicide or adrenaline at high rate? The answer comes as a bomb. A big bomb! Face to face Mercedes A 45 AMG vs BMW HP 4 and Jaguar XKR-S.
For people to remember you not as a simple story, but as a legend, you need to be unforgettable and set standards so high that that certain WOW will also be exclaimed years later. This also has a correspondent in the auto world, the place where the manufacturers compete against each other to create legends, by pushing the limits that some see as barricades. Also called „special projects”, there are automobiles that get some extra attention and become the vanguard of their segment. But what happens when the stars of the moments are in-line to get started? We are having, right in front of our photo camera lens, the newest BMW Motorrad product – HP4, the most handling AMG in history – Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG and a supercar with an outstanding personality, Jaguar XKR-S. Right from the very beginning, I must mention it is not a comparison test, but a fascination material, where the speed dresses up in three shapes and three different budgets.
On Two Wheels
The two-wheel representative, HP4, derived from the BMW S1000 RR, is the base on which the construction of the motorbikes in Superbike and Superstock competitions are set. To certify the statement, there come the logo and the series number cut on the fork arm, a detail that reminds you that you are in the company of a special product.
HP4 has dynamical control of suspension (DDC), a world premiere in series motorbike construction
When it comes to the technical part, I can start with the dynamical control of the suspension (DDC), a first in the series motorbike manufacturing. The upside-down fork perfectly adjusts to any situation encountered along the way, as it is electronically controlled according to the parameters provided by the sensors. In short, it provides safety and top road-holding. I would need 2-3 pages to explain to length: just keep in mind that you can separately buy sensors for the travel of the fork that, once set, they unlock the menu of the dashbord indicators to allow different settings for compression and detent. The pioneers of the motorbike ABS went up to the next level. You can choose from four modes – Rain, Sport (normal road), Race (track, street tyres) and Slick (track, slicks). For those acquainted with race driving, during the Slick Mode, the ABS and the system monitoring the elevation of the rear wheel from the ground are disconnected, so you can slide the braking periods. The torque was raised between 6.000 and 9.750 rpm for better acceleration when coming out of bends. If it wasn’t for the electronical safety systems, I think you could raise up on one wheel even in the 4th gear. If you have ever driven a Yamaha R1, you must know you needed this. The power delivery was too distortionless for the S1000 RR.
The HP4 even has Launch Control for the starts, which rearrange your internal organs. You must only mind the clutch, because the throttle and the torque are electronically controlled so you won’t lift up on one wheel. The motorbike weighs 199 kg (with the racing ABS on, ready for the ride, with 90% full tank) and has a 193 HP power, developed at 13.000 rpm. The handle bar, elevated a little more than the saddle, provides an unexpected level of comfort for long rides and for street rides. The fact that it allows to speed up until the rear wheel starts dancing right and left and does not let you roll over when you involuntarily raise it up on one wheel, is a proof for the technology level that the BMW has reached. Why does everybody consider it is the best? It is probably because it is a racing motorbike with headlights, that can be driven from home to track and back, no matter the weather. It is the best because it guards you like a guardian angel and gives you sensations that are considered as sins in some environments.
Four wheels and all pulling
I add other two wheels and 1.000 cc and I draw up the most fashionable hot hatch of the moment – Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG. At first sight and looked at from the front, it doesn’t look much different from the A 180 CDI with the AMG package, tested some weeks ago. In my opinion, the market needs such a premium silent killer, but which is given away by the four exhausts and the optional rear flap which is slightly optimistic when it comes to dimensions. The 19-inch tyres leave at sight some of the biggest brake calipers ever set up on a compact car and which can be painted in red. I anxiously open the door to get on board the first 4-cylinder AMG and having the best HP/litre ratio for a 2 litre 4 cylinder – 360 HP out of only 1.991 cc. These are fabulous figures that make sense as soon as I clasp my hands around the Alcantara leathered sporty steering wheel and I take a look at the speedometer, graded up to 320 km/h. The way that the AMG seats hem me in makes me think of a pure-blooded rally car, but those are a little bit rigid and difficult to ride day by day. But on paper, the A45 AMG pledges figures worthy of a supercar: 0-100 km/h in only 4,7 seconds, 4-wheel drive system, an automatic 7-speed gearbox with a soft inspired by the SLS.
A 45 AMG has the most powerful 4 cylinder in the world
I entwist the key in the ignition, the needles of the indicators show maximum values and a husky tune prefaces the show up of the famous engine. Husky, barytone-like, with stirring AMG accent, this sound is optionally available if you tick the AMG exhaust system. The gearshift selector migrated from the steering column area to the central tunnel, the shift paddles from behind the wheel allowing me to play my way and to reach the START function, which guarentees a perfect kick-off. There are many working modes. In-city, I can choose the Drive mode, with the ECO function on. Changing gears is smooth and around 2.000 rpm with the Start/Stop system getting involved most of the time at traffic lights. With this setting, you can daily travel to the office without pushing the throttle more than 30% of its travel and keeping a reasonable fuel consumption. I am anxious to select the Sport mode, which makes things a bit different: the steering becomes harder, the exhaust sounds huskier and „pinks when downshiftting”, when I call in the best brakes that a premium hot hatch can ever have. Not only their efficiency is their strong point, but also the way you can graduate the brake pedal. Flawless!
A45 AMG is very gentle in Drive Mode but become a beast in Sport mode
The few bends wake the racing driver in me up and I start to approach the problem from the perspective of the owner of a 300 HP and front wheel drive hot hatch. Ordinarily and in perfect conditions, drive train delivers more than 90% of the power to the front wheels. A strong kick-off or taking the bend on „full gas” are pure delight and mostly thanks to the possibility of automatically raising the standard ratio of distributing torque and it delivers 50% of the power to the rear axle. This makes it an out-of-the-commun-road AMG, even when the front axle starts to lose adherence. It is a safety feeling that I had in two cars twice as expensive, of which I am sure that, along a looping road would have some trouble with this „baby WRC”. This sensation is also held up by the upgraded suspension, that provides the exact information about everything that happens to each wheel and which manages to keep the ground contact even in out of level „made in Romania” bends where the test took place.
The linearity with which this engine delivers all the 360 HP can only help speeding up sooner, without risking to make the car lose ballance.
It’s the Jaguar XKR-S turn to claim defence and show me that a 5,0-liter V8, assisted by a mechanical compressor can make me forget the efficiency with which the A45 AMG does the job.
For the chosen ones, there is the XKR-S, a GT with a personality in an overcrowded segment and a price league close to 140.000 euros. It is a superior league, there where the Maserati introduces the Gran Turismo, the Porsche introduces the 911, the BMW brings up the M6 and the Mercedes-Benz puts in the SL AMG. In comparison to the XKR, with that S in the end, brings more power – 550 HP – keeping the standard engine organs, with a new soft for the gearbox, bigger rims, upgraded suspension and a grave exhaust system. Yes, a Jaguar must roar and this XKR-S does it as good as it gets. It’s an aristocrat cat that the public idolizes and that bites even worse than it scratches. It has a commanding appearance that I rarely encountered, strongly up against the manly interior that shows its age by certain details. You can stare and wonder for hours and hours, but you can also drive it as if you stole it.
The exhaust system make the music
The long bonnet, the lowered seats, the midget rear seat bench and the comfortable suspension remind me that, despite the arsenal under the bonnet, this is a long drive GT. Gently driven, the XKR-S is very submissive and annoyingly stable. You can choose the Sport mode, but hopefully the Evil one will not drive you to stir the ESP, and you will find that the cat that was caged and now has a prey in front of her very eyes. It has a rear budge even in the 3rd gear (around 120 km/h), where it can reach speeds by 30 km/h higher than the one allowed on highways in Europe except Germany. The figures are not as important as the way these are reached: an absolute show both for you, the one behind the steering wheel, and for others in traffic. It likes being rushed, even if the steering and the automatic 6-speed gearbox conveys that they don’t like being sped up. The submissive suspension slightly hesitates along humping roads, there is a body roll in sudden steering changes, but it’s inside the normal standards. The visibility is also a strength point that we very much appreciate along the winding roads and that allowed me to speed up the rhythm to go off my lane and, in-city roads, it is one reason less to stress. If it is a comfortable ride in the front seats, but the rear seat bench can host only two kindergarden kids the most and that would be in a short distance drive. Of course, it was conceived more for shopping bags than for people, which is common also for the competitors.
All in all, as it is not a comparison test, the race against time is the only one that can gather all up behind the same scratch, and the satisfaction is guaranteed, no matter which one you decide to race. It is a matter of taste, it is a matter of budget!
Foto: Adrian Cobzașu