The Mercedes has received similar levels of acoustic engineering, but it’s more obvious, more often. Both are unmuffled by their turbochargers. Neither whizzes, fizzes or whistles, but fine exhaust noise with a touch of induction urge.
The E63’s has a harder edge – and a more satisfying one than the Bentley’s, although the Bentley gives the impression that it’s shifting more air (which it isn’t, because the AMG is not just a bigger capacity but also makes 549bhp). For tunnels, the Bentley’s hoodless nature has the edge. Everywhere else, the Mercedes is more satisfying.
The Ariel is the exception. From the cockpit, where you’ll likely be wearing a helmet, there’s a lot of mechanical noise. From the outside, it’s a very different story. For immediacy and aggression, the Atom’s engine is in a league of one. By the time you’ve thought about giving it full urge in third gear, it’s time to back out again, if rampant wheelspin hasn’t already encouraged you to do so.
But what a machine. What an addiction. And when you can give it the lot, what a sound. Imagine a hoard of superbikes accelerating in sync and you’ll get the idea. The Atom is so spectacular that its engine doesn’t dominate the experience. The gearbox and its pneumatic shift are equally intoxicating. It steers and handles with aplomb, too, although it would be better still on grippier front tyres. Even its diddy paddle shifters are things of beauty.
That Bentley is a fine car, too. So rich in sound and performance is the V8 that the 6.0-litre W12 is now a way to mark out those who must spend as much money as is possible.
The rest of the Continental package is equally lovely. The GTC is a rare thing, a convertible unspoilt by the removal of the coupé’s roof. It later tipped MIRA’s scales at more than 2500kg. Bentley remains unafraid of excess and beefing up its chassis to retain rigidity.
Yet the GTC rides and steers admirably well, given its mass. If you have a Continental, you’ll likely have another car as well – in which case, for my money, you might as well have the convertible, for when nothing but open-air motoring will do.
Mercedes E63 AMG
The E63 is a lovely thing. I prefer the way a Jaguar XFR rides and steers but there’s appeal to the way the Mercedes does things. Chief among which is its engine. It has the most flamboyant motor in its class is why it, and not a BMW M5 or the Jaguar, appears here. If you want a the engine to dominates the experience, the Mercedes is the super-saloon of choice.
Vauxhall will import around 50 Maloos into the UK, although one suspects even this number won’t leave too many people disappointed. I love it, but it’s hard to see what you’d use it for. What surprised me about it is how tidily it drives.
There’s nothing shouty about the way the Maloo drives; the hydraulic steering is decently weighted, body control is fine, and it has a pleasingly neutral cornering stance if you get the front end tucked in under braking. The control weights are beefy, but that’s part of the charm.
The V8 super-test in pictures
What’s most remarkable about it is that its V8 isn’t its main event. The Chevy motor is reduced to tool. It’s an integral part of the experience but it’s not the blockbuster. The Maloo wouldn’t be right with any other engine, but the 6.2-litre unit neatly integrates itself into the package.
Is there a ‘best’ V8 in these? It’s impossible to say, in the same way there isn’t a ‘best’ car on the run from Hindhead down to the south coast, around nice roads with pretty views that the tunnel eliminates, because things are not like for like. The Bentley with the hood down is lovely on a coastal road in a way the Atom is differently lovely across twistier asphalt. Does the E63 better capture the essence of V8 than the Atom? It depends on your perception of V8.