Automakers around the world seem to do one particular thing exceptionally well — interestingly, more so than automakers from another region. Japan, for example, has the hybrid market on lock-down; American trucks are the dominant players in their segment, and so on. In Germany, automakers seem to have a particular knack for making mind-numbingly good sedans and sport coupes.
Since the 1980s, German sedans have made a strong impression on American consumers, and that trend continues today. The three major luxury automakers from the country — BMW AG, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi — are constantly racing to out-do one another in a competitive relationship that has proven to be most beneficial to the consumers who can reap the fruits of their labor.
It certainly isn’t cheap, probably not terribly fuel-efficient, and likely won’t be too cheap to maintain either, but when it comes to the perfect balance of handling, raw power, and speed, few can do it better than the Germans. Here are nine examples to help drive that point home — we opted to include members of the “sedan-coupe” family, like the RS 7 and CLS63 AMG, since they walk a fine line between hatchback, sedan, and coupe; but they do have four-doors and a similar layout, so we through them in.
1. Audi S6
Audi’s (VLKAY.PK) S6 is a 420 horsepower sleeper, with few indications on the outside (the badges, exhaust, some aero work) that the hot sedan is packing a zero-60 time of 4.5 seconds, and 406 pound-feet of torque to pair with its turbocharged four liters of displacement. It starts at around $73,400 for those looking to stay on the down-low, but who still want the means to peel up some asphalt. Speed is electronically limited to 155, and cylinder deactivation allows the S6 to net 27 miles per gallon on the highway.
2. Audi RS 7
If you’re looking for more than the S6 has to offer, the RS 7 probably has it. Unapologetically menacing looks? Check. More power? Check, all 560 horses worth. Sixty miles per hour is dealt with from a standstill in 3.7 seconds, and despite the turbocharged V8 being tuned to 140 horsepower more than the S6, it still manages the same highway fuel efficiency. You’ll be paying a bit more for the RS 7 package — it starts at $104,900 — but it’s also the most powerful RS-badged model available Stateside.
3. Audi S8
The S8 is Audi’s flagship performance sedan, offering the utmost in comfort and interior space while compromising nothing under the hood. Power is supplied by the same 4.0 liter turbo V8, tuned to 520 hp and 481 pound-feet of torque. It starts at a little over $112,000, making it among the most expensive in Audi’s stable (at least in the U.S.), but for a full-size sedan that can reach 60 in 3.9 seconds, some find its well worth the price.
4. BMW M5
Next to the M3, the M5 is perhaps the most respected M-badged BMW on the market today. It has the 560 horsepower to match the RS 7′s, but starts at a more affordable (though hardly) $92,900. It musters a not-so-mighty 20 miles per gallon on the highway, but that’s the price one pays for a 4,300-pound sedan that can nail 60 in 4.3 seconds. Top speed is limited at 155, though BMW’s turbocharged 4.4 liter V8 is likely capable of figures far surpassing that.
5. BMW M6 Gran Coupe
If you like the idea of the M5, but are looking for a similar car in a sleeker package, the M6 Gran Coupe might be your best bet. It will cost considerably more — $115,000 is the base price — while the power remains the same as the M5, from the same V8 power plant. However, there are few angles in which the M6 doesn’t look better than the M5, and aerodynamically speaking, the M6 has the upper hand thanks to its lower roofline and sleeker profile.
6. BMW Alpina B7
BMW’s M Division gets most of the credit for their high-performance offerings, but the BMW Alpina line has a special place in enthusiasts’ hearts. The 540 horsepower offered by the Alpina-tweaked BMW 7 Series generates a segment-appropriate 540 horsepower, but that power isn’t harnessed, meaning the Alpina B7 can reach a top speed of 194 miles per hour. To recap, that’s BMW’s largest sedan coming within a whisper of 200 miles per hour. The added speed comes at a price starting at $132,000, but the tweaks don’t stop at the engine; you also get an improved interior and a set of those swanky Alpina rims.
7. Mercedes-Benz E63 S AMG
Like the S6, the Mercedes (DDAIF.PK) E63 AMG is a bit of a sleeper. Unlike the S6, it packs 577 horsepower, making it perhaps the most powerful listed, thanks to AMG’s incredibly smooth 5.5 liter twin-turbo V8. Zero to 60 is dealt with in 3.7 seconds, it costs just a shade under $100K, and comes with Mercedes’ 4MATIC all-wheel drive, so all that power is put to good use. Naturally, buyers will have all of Mercedes’ options and accoutrements available to them; imagine this as a rocket ship wrapped in leather and with an analog clock.
8. Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG S-Model
The E63 is Mercedes as the M5 is to BMW, and therefore, the CLS63 is to Mercedes as the M6 Gran Coupe is to BMW. Power output is the same as the E63, though the CLS63 beats former to 60 by a tenth of a second, perhaps due to improved aerodynamics and its more fluid shape. It runs $106,500, ceilings at 22 miles per gallon on the highway, and churns out 590 pound-feet of torque, which should do its part in shredding whatever rubber you have the wheels wrapped in.
9. Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG
It’s nearly $140,000 price tag makes the S63 AMG the most expensive of the lot, but Mercedes makes sure you get your money’s worth. It shares the same 577 horsepower platform (5.5 liters, two turbos, and eight cylinders) as the E63 and the CLS63, but the S Class is second to none as far as technology and comfort are concerned. That its the largest in Mercedes’ sedan fleet makes it all the more impressive that it hits 60 in 3.9 seconds, and everything from massaging seats to cabin fragrances can be thrown in for an extra fee.