Achtung, baby! Sure, German automakers take even entry-level econoboxes seriously. But their latest high-end, high-performance cars — with souped-up engines and suspensions — are some of the best Euro rides yet.
Such high-performance cars are so advanced, they make typical tuners — like the Subaru WRX or Mitsubishi Evo — seem like measly Matchbox toys.
Of course, high performance comes at a high price. But if you’re looking for miles of smiles, these dream machines may just be worth it.
AUDI S4 SEDAN
MPG: 17 city/26 highway
0-to-60 mph: 4.9 seconds
Cargo space: 12 cubic feet
Audi’s superb S4 costs $15,000 more than the average A4 sedan. That’s steep, but it’s a lot less than a posh Porsche coupe. Yet the S4 handles just like a 911 Carrera, sits on a higher platform (for better visibility) and with four doors, is much more practical. A supercharged V6 churns out 333 hp and is mated to a slick seven-speed gearbox (which shines best with the optional manual transmission). Along with standard safety gear, such as traction/stability control, there’s a blind-spot warning system and adaptive cruise control (with brake assist if the car senses a frontal crash). Two trim levels, though the high-end Prestige package adds xenon headlights, rearview camera, keyless ignition/entry and a jammin’ 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system. The all-wheel drive and taut chassis mean virtually no body roll. And the luxe cabin is whisper quiet, with bolstered seats that are surprisingly comfortable on long rides.
BMW M6 COUPE
MPG: 14 city/20 highway
0-to-60 mph: 4.2 seconds
Cargo space: 12.4 cubic feet
With its blistering 560-hp engine, the redesigned M6 is back with a vengeance. It’s now roomier, sleeker and quicker, sprinting from 0 to 60 mph in a mere 4.2 seconds. But like a boutique hotel, the M6 is also built to pamper, from the soft-close doors and heated steering wheel to front seats with built-in massage rollers. All that’s missing are spa treatments and facials. High-tech gizmos include a lane-departure warning system, heads-up display (which shows the mph on the windshield) and front-bumper cameras (that peak around the corner to see if vehicles are approaching). There’s even a night-vision system that warns of pedestrians in the roadway. This being a coupe, backseat legroom is nil (though there’s plenty of trunk space). And as with the Audi S4, the front seats are gentle on the tush, even over rough pavement and potholes.
MERCEDES GL550 SUV
MPG: 13 city/18 highway
0-to-60 mph: 5.4 seconds
Cargo space: 93.8 cubic feet
Make no mistake, the GL550 is a beast. There’s more room — but only a little less zoom — than in the Audi S4 or BMW M6. Sure, the base GL350 gets better gas mileage. But it’s pokier than the performance-oriented GL550, with its twin-turbo V8 and 21-inch wheels. Think of the seven-passenger GL550 as a rolling home theater, with iPod interface, dual-screen rear entertainment system and 13-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound stereo. Multicolored ambient lighting is also a nice touch. Safety gear includes a multi-view parking camera, front/rear parking sensors and a nifty automatic parallel-parking system. An air-suspension system lets the driver raise and lower the vehicle for easier access. And acceleration, braking and cornering are spot-on. But the main downside of this hulking hauler is its size, which can sometimes be too big for small parking garages and narrow alleys.