The history books would have you believe that the West was once a wild place. But if you're braving the sweltering California desert and happen upon a little town called Palm Springs, you'd never know it. The dusty bandits, merciless bounty hunters, and untamed renegades are long gone, replaced by air-conditioned cafés, opulent galleries, and swanky day spas. The only weapons in use are those rumbling under the hoods of the many exotic and classic cars cruising the boulevard. The desert people clearly favor Cadillacs over Caterhams, though - luxury rules the West now.
The BMW 760Li, the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG, and the Porsche Panamera Turbo each enter the saloon with at least 500 horses of firepower tucked away beneath a façade of formality. They look benign enough, but when the dust starts flying, there are few steeds that can match their speed. They may all hail from Germany, but there's something distinctly Wild West about these three sedans. And so we took them to Palm Springs, their natural habitat, for a gunslinging showdown.
The idea that a luxury sedan should be able to dice with a sports car is a relatively new one. Acceleration is relatively easy to achieve - just add more engine - but getting a big, cushy, heavy car to dance through the corners like a light sports car isn't. And the very essence of a sports car - the lovely sounds, the tight body control, the connected steering - is exactly the opposite of a luxury sedan. Or so you'd think.
Thanks to computer-controlled suspensions, brilliant engineering, and colossal powertrains, these three Germans break all the rules. They're do-everything machines - large, gilded cruisers with first-class interiors and all the latest techno-gizmos, and yet they can pull off sports car moves with almost no penalty to comfort. On the surface, the BMW, the Mercedes, and the Porsche are very similar: They cost the same. They're all similarly powerful - and have so much brute force at their disposal that they start out in second gear unless you request otherwise. And yet, in the details, they couldn't be more different.