Widowmaker Club

“pɜːʳpəs: The purpose of something is the reason for which it is made or done.”

Collins Dictionary

Purpose nobilitates everything. Purpose means having a reason to exist in this world and it can only be seen as your primary goal in your life: it’s the single thing that defines you and gives you the energy you need for living at 100%. 

The sense of purpose some cars have is perhaps what drives us crazy about them. In our view, if a car shows unapologetically what it was made for, that is the one we love. Cars that are true to their purpose are the ones that your desire to have them grows as the years go by. I remember the first time I sat in an Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT 1300 Junior: the seating position, the gear lever and the great visibility gave me the idea of how a purposeful car should be. 

Nowadays, the vast majority of cars seem to be made for instagrammers. They’re usable daily but they’re driving oxymoron: how is anyone supposed to tick the option for an expensive audio systems in a car supposed to be used at the track? Or choose the interior in rich leather and spec all sort of things that fit more for a luxurious road-going GT than for a no-nonsense street racer? Not that anyone can possibly say that driving their prized track car anywhere while blasting their favorite album on the radio is lame, but today, track cars are destined to the sort of people that not even 10 years ago would have turned any 911 GT3 down by saying “how am I supposed to pay more for so much less?”.

Things change and despite modern-day track-oriented supercars are performing better than ever there is that lack of… roughness. And we do not mean being unnecessarily hardcore (cough cough M4 GTS), but focused on giving the driver a clear feedback… or a pure driving experience. So which are the last cars that we truly consider to be the most purposeful of the last decade? In our view there are more than a couple, but to be honest there is nothing like experiencing two real German widowmakers such as the Porsche 997 GT2 and the Mercedes Benz AMG C63 Black Series.

It seems such a long time but 2007 happened 13 years ago: our generation was just beginning to get their driver’s licenses. The GT2 was… the halo car, the one that only the kind of people who loved to add even more spice to their GT3’s would have wanted to buy. Sure enough, the RUF CTR is perhaps the modern interpretation of a 935 racer but back then the GT2 was the modern Gr.5 turbocharged monster with a license plate. Rwd only, it required skill and finesse to be driven at the limit.

The C63 Black Series on the other hand has always been the ultimate European muscle car. A no-nonsense tire shredding and tarmac ripping machine which has always stood for a modern reinterpretation of the classic big-block muscle cars of the 1960ies. It was made to be driven at the track but in the end it’s a fine old Merc at heart: comfortable, plenty of torque and a glorified automatic transmission. When it came out, it provided the right soundtrack when our generation was fresh of Bachelor’s degree. It’s pure German muscle:  it carries the same brutality of a sub 10 sec dragster… only that it can corner very well.

These two are an exhilarating pair and they’re the grown-ups that we can poke at… but always respectfully. They still require a fundamental option which wasn’t available on the option list: driving skill and knowledge. We sure aren’t any Stigs but we might know a few things about sporty driving. So, this is the showdown of two modern widowmakers that have etched their place in history and in our hearts: finally we got to experience driving purpose, redefined… once again. 

Driving the GT2 feels like writing a letter to your 17-year-old self, the same guy who was sitting in the driving-school classroom at 22.00 pm wondering when he’d be going out for the next drive with your teacher’s crappy Ford Fiesta. Car magazines filled your room and you mom could stop yelling at you for the state of constant chaos reigning all around you. The GT2 was one of the reasons to love turbos: more power, more fun more and more badassness. Producing 530 hp at 6.500 rpm from its twin-turbocharged 3.6 litre flat six and weighing only 1440 kg, it looks as promising on paper as it is to drive on the road. The bespoke intake and bigger turbos gave the GT2 the greater advantage and the extra 50 hp over the Turbo’s 480 hp. The specific air intake fitted was hailed as a marvel of engineering as it was able to take advantage of the air’s expansion rather than compression. This “trick” was used in order to have cooler air flowing into the combustion chambers and as speed-science goes, low intake gases temperature means more efficiency and more power.

Such principle of air expansion can occur only in turbocharged engines: the drawback is that with air expansion you have the cylinders filled with less air during the expansion phase, resulting in a richer air-fuel mixture which leads to excessive fuel consumption. To optimize this system, the engineers at Weissach simply added more boost to the turbos, allowing to have correct values and therefore helping achieve the staggering hp and optimal fuel-consumption figures the car still has. The result is a car that feels like a GT3 but completely transforms after 3500 rpm, where a proper energy explosion occurs with a relentless wall of power and torque pushing towards the redline. Mated to the MG97 88 gearbox of the GT3 with revised gear-ratios, the engine is a showcase of how a proper turbocharged engine should be. With two variable turbine geometry turbines producing 1.4 bars of boost, the GT2 is the kind of car you’ll never forget.

Starting up the car and driving on the road can be seen as re-living the feelings of the old Gr.4 and Gr.5 drivers of the 70ies. As the engine is mounted on motorsport mounts, there’s a delightful vibration going through your spine, while the classic gentle and civilized rumble of the flat six fills the back of the cabin. The Clubsport pack and the spartan interior will put your right foot immediately into safe mode: wheel spin, killer understeer and oversteer can occur at all times, so be careful.

The GT2 surprises you of how much civilized it is on the road. Whilst knowing that everything can change with your right foot, you cannot help but enjoy the car’s wonderfully precise nature. There’s only what you need: PASM suspension and PCCB brakes tuned to allow you to feel the McPherson front suspension, multilink rear and the overall lightness of the car. The suspension is typical GT3, hard but refined at the same time: it’s truly something that would work extremely well on track or on any smooth road surface.Like every Porsche, is user friendly… when used at 30% of its potential. Passed that threshold, it becomes a real handful to tame. Going into the turbo-zone means being ready to use every bit of your knowledge not to crash: this car wasn’t made for instagram but for drivers. The GT2 is a surgeon’s instrument that needs to be managed carefully. Its precise and sleek nature are in direct contrast with the big Merc. The two cars are like Niki Lauda and James Hunt: they complement each other while being different and at the opposites. 

The Merc is Thor’s hammer with wheels. Big, loud and loves to slide its rear wheels at every occasion. It’s not uncommon to drive normally with the rear tires spinning and the exhaust popping and banging like it’s the 4th of July. It’s a riot. It’s AMG’s answer to Porsche recipe of precision and it’s super fun. It’s intimidating at first, when the tires are cold and you feel that there’s too much power going down the road: if you try to accelerate hard, C63 feels like a big dog wanting to chase thieves on an icy surface. But then, when it’s heated up, the Black Series becomes your best friend, giving you all the reasons why you should have fun in a car in the first place. It’s brutally fast on the straight line and although it lacks the same motorsport precision of the GT2, it’s very rewarding to drive.  When it was presented in 2012, the C63 was the 4th model of the famous Black Series: powered by the hand assembled M156 6.2 litre V8 (in our car the engine was assembled by Herr Markus Pfeiffer) producing 517 hp and 620 Nm of torque it’s a riot to drive. Borrowing the same motor of the famed SLS but featuring its own engine control, the C63 is perhaps one of the ultimate AMG motorcars.

Fitted with its own adjustable sports suspension and with flared 42mm wheel-arches to accommodate the bigger 9 x 19 (front) and 9.5 x 19 (rear) wheels, it looks as menacing and promising as it really is in real life. Compared to the GT2, where everything is in the perfect place, the C63 feels like driving a refined hammer. Compared to the C63 of today, this one is more simple and focused. Despite not being fitted with the optional Track and Aero packets, it still gives you a rewarding experience. While intimidating at first, it then becomes just a wonderful road car, giving you way too many reasons to do tire spins and trying to go sideways all the time. Yet… if the surface is damp and wet, you better watch out as it doesn’t forgive easily. AMG Speed-shift gearbox is a classic torque-converter unit which has been calibrated for faster shifts and more accurate response-timings. Although being slower than a classic DCT it’s definitely more engaging to drive than a more perfect and sleek DCT unit.

While track times and overall performance seem to matter in the C63, in reality it’s a big and menacing pitbull who really loves to play. Intimidating at first due to its size and fiery nature it’s able to transform into a car which has less precision of the GT2 but an equally involving driving experience. Still, it commands respect: if you can find another car whose traction control comes on mid-corner after you have already initiated the slide… let us know. We’d be very happy to escape it!

The ride of the Black Series is composed and works incredibly well for the road. Stepping down from the GT2 and getting inside the Merc feels like resting down on the sofa after a long session at the gym. Despite the annoying engine resonance happening between 1300 and 1500 rpm the car is perfect for touring and driving on longer distances. While being the most track-focused version of the W203 C63, the Black Series is indeed a wonderful road car.

How these two compare? They’re the opposites coming from the word of extreme but both now stand proud as the beacons of a time when these cars… were difficult to drive fast. Besides the goosebumps and the great feeling you have behind, you cannot help but admire them as properly sorted driving machines.

What is that makes these cars great? It’s not the noise or even the manual shifter or the fact that are rear wheel drive but the fact that they pose you with a challenge. They might be toys for grown-up boys but they’re a tool for driving first and foremost. Perhaps… we’re growing old and we’re starting to look back at the cars that made us truly excited when we were a bit younger. Are we getting nostalgic and have we lost that sense of anticipation to any new car that comes out today? Not completely for sure, but the easy tire spin and the roughness of this pair are a very, very sweet comeback to the time when we were getting our first-hand approaches on these wonderful and dangerous machines.

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