Sometimes it's not about where you go but rather how you get there. These vehicles represent two of the best German performance cars, combining blistering speed with reassuring road-holding characteristics, providing the best of both these esoteric worlds to the most demanding drivers, yet each with their own distinct character.
Take the AMG CLK63. Its rear-wheel drive and never-ending torque curve from the 6.2-liter V8 (badged 6.3 in tribute to the 1970 300 SEL which served as the base for the first-ever AMG vehicle) place it close to the classic American way of doing things. Common sense-defying torque, 342 lb-ft, peaks at 5000 rpm, but 270 lb-ft is already available when this engine is merely warming up (at 2000 rpm). Mix in the perfectly synced seven-speed G-tronic gearbox (which could actually be faster in full auto mode) and you're stuck fast into the leather bucket seat.
These forces threaten to overwhelm the slim 255/35 rear tires. The upside of the Pirelli P Zeros is that they also convey a vast knowledge of the CLK's lively character, probable winner of the 'most playful Mercedes I have ever driven' crown. The limited-slip rear diff provides valuable help to avoid major upsets and AMG's stiffer suspension settings and the electronic arsenal of driver aids are valuable contributions to the effort of staying on the road, no matter how much the driver pushes his or her luck.
Through a succession of curves, throttle modulation will bring a touch of tail movement, just enough to provide a thrill and get the job done, but not enough to cause palpitations. The brakes show the same sort of credentials and exhibit no sign of fading, regardless of how brutal the abuse becomes. Sadly, the steering doesn't quite keep pace and proves somewhat vague at this level of performance.
Alternatively, there's the Porsche 911 Turbo. Its whole posture is totally different from its more bourgeois Stuttgart neighbor. The all-wheel-driven and much lighter 911 benefits from engine placement above the rear axle, blending an almost unbelievable pace and efficiency with gut-wrenching traction. Unless you have the genes of an F1 driver, the combination of speed and weight transfer will make your hands sweat while careening through the blurred grey stretches up ahead.
Especially relevant is the upgrade on the Traction Management System, which now features an electro-magnetic clutch (as opposed to the ancient mechanical viscous coupling) responsible for a variation of torque distribution from zero to almost 100 percent to either end of the car.
The new two-piece rear wing features an upper blade which rises at 74 mph and generates 60 pounds of downforce when driving at top speed. Clamped to the tarmac, who could avoid wondering: how on Earth is it possible to feel so efficient and safe, as if the road itself is part of the software the Porsche engineers logged into this masterpiece?