Each of these saloons has a turbocharged 3-litre V6 that packs over 350bhp. Now, which one is the most desirable “action thriller”?
ONE thousand one hundred and twenty one horsepower.
That is the combined power output of the three sports saloons in this story.
Had the 1121 sporty horses from Germany and Japan been simultaneously unleashed in anger, they might have caused serious damage to the Golden Mile Tower carpark floor.
Jokes aside, these three powerful turbo saloons are capable of serious performance.
The most muscle-bound contender in this shootout is the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400.
With 400bhp beneath its bonnet (hence the name) and a more traditional rear-wheel-drive layout (the others are all-wheel- drive), the Q50 isn’t just gunning for its rivals – it wants to draw blood, quickly.
The least potent car in this comparison is the 354bhp Audi S4. But it is significantly more muscular (by 21bhp and 60Nm) than its predecessor, and the brand’s reputation for great interiors is burnished by a long list of standard amenities in this case.
Taking the fight to the S4 and Q50 is the 367bhp Mercedes- AMG C43. Although it is not a full-fledged AMG model (only cars with the “45”, “63” and “65” suffix qualify as such), the C43 packs more than enough power to silence anyone who would dare call it an “AMG-lite” model.
So, which of these saloons ultimately makes an enthusiast’s heart beat faster while making the hairs on his neck stand higher? Keep reading and find out – fast!
AUDI S4 3.0
Audi’s turbocharged 3-litre V6 with 354bhp and 500Nm sounds the most invigorating, but is surprisingly also the most efficient motor of this trio.
Most driver-focussed cockpit has the sportiest seats and an angled dashboard, and its alloy pedals have the meatiest feel. The touch-operated air-con menus and aluminium trimmings make this space feel the most high-tech as well.
Least spacious backseat has the shortest backrests and worst floorboard protrusion, making it better for two adults instead of three. But S4 is the only car here with a third climate zone for the rear cabin.
S4’s all-digital cluster appears to be the most advanced and displays the most pertinent information, but this could potentially overwhelm drivers.
C43’s 480-litre trunk is the most convenient as it’s the only one here with a powered lid and a pair of backrest-release handles. But the boot floor isn’t level with the pass-through compartment.
INFINITI Q50 RED SPORT 400 3.0
Infiniti’s turbocharged 3-litre V6 with 400bhp and 475Nm is the most powerful but least efficient engine of the group.
Cockpit looks the least exciting, but its simplicity makes it the most driver-friendly of the group. Personalising the individual drive settings is even easier than in the S4, but the sat-nav graphics look retro and cartoonish.
Best for road trips and rush-hour commutes, because Q50’s bench is the cushiest of the bunch and has the longest squabs. The lack of doorbins, however, makes it harder for folks to store loose items.
Q50’s analogue dials have digits which are bigger and easier to read than the C43’s, but navigating the menus is less intuitive than the rival systems here.
S4’s 480-litre boot is the most well-packaged as it has the squarest space without any wheel-arch intrusion. The standard cargo net and pull-down hooks make it even easier to secure small items.
MERCEDES-AMG C43 3.0
Mercedes-AMG’s turbocharged 3-litre V6 with 367bhp and 520Nm has the most urgent power delivery.
Most luxurious cockpit has the softest seats, plenty of wood trimmings and a leather-lined dashboard. Racy red trimmings include the seatbelts. Well-contoured steering wheel offers the nicest grip, but the infotainment system is the least intuitive of the three vehicles.
The group’s roomiest backseat caters very well to tall occupants with large feet. C43 has the roomiest doorbins as well. It’s also the only cabin with fully retractable windows and a rear sunroof panel for added airiness.
Chequered background and red needles make the C43’s gauges look sportier than the Q50’s meters, and the secondary display has prettier graphics, too.
Q50’s 500-litre boot is the least useful despite its volume, as it suffers from substantial wheel-arch intrusions, while also having the narrowest pass-through aperture. The externally mounted struts maximise the cargo capacity, though.
If you want the best “blue thunder” bang for your buck, get the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400. Priced at $265,800 (correct at press time), the 400bhp Q50 is a sweet deal, as it costs $33.8k and $58k less than the Audi S4 and Mercedes-AMG C43 respectively.
We also love how the Q50 is a sleeper high- performer, as the “3.0t” badges on its front fenders and “Q50S” badge on the boot lid are the only hints to its red-hot Red Sport performance.
The Q50’s only missteps are its tame exhaust note and comparatively slower performance. A more prominent soundtrack might have swayed us, as it would complement the car’s tail-happy disposition!
The Mercedes-AMG C43 might be the least tail- happy of this group, but that doesn’t douse its fiery character. With the drive mode set to Sport+, it has the most urgent performance and snappiest throttle response. But that also means having to switch to a more conservative drive mode (hated by petrolheads) when the roads became congested, so that the car would be easier to drive.
The Merc’s classy cockpit and roomy backseat are its other strong points. Its weak point is the $323k price tag, which makes it only accessible to drivers with even deeper pockets.
The most desirable “action thriller” in this shootout is the Audi S4. Even with its powertrain and suspension at their sportiest settings, the S4 impresses with its linear power delivery and composed ride quality. Having an almost erotic soundtrack makes the car downright irresistible, too.
What we don’t like are the S4’s compact backseat and toy-like paddle shifters, which don’t belong in an otherwise well-built cabin.
Look past those points and what you have is a sports saloon that not only raises pulse rates and neck hairs, it puts a big grin on the driver’s face, too.
PHOTOS TAN MENG CHOON
ART DIRECTION SEAN LEE