Alex, I think we are reaching somewhat of a consensus.
The reason the 911 would be controllable is that they are developed as a complete package with an eye on the most powerful engine that is going to be fitted and the requirements that places on the rest of the components.
I personally think that BMW also do that, they slipped up a bit with the E60 by putting too many electronics on it, but the bhp and torque they are putting into the cars is still just about manageable by the chassis.
Take the V8 M3 and switch everything off and it would still be an enjoyable and manageable drive.
Audi, I am less sure. The V10 RS6 existed because it could, not necessarily because it should.
Merc though (at least through AMG) seem obsessed with fitting the most bonkers engine possible in a chassis that is not up to the job.
oh yeah, don't get me wrong, I think that the M3 is by far the best car in its sector, I'm just not a fan of the philosophy, simply cos for that money you can get far more engaging cars. But still it's a formidable car.
It is not a question of the weight distribution though, it has plenty enough over the back wheels for a 'sensible' amount of power and torque. The problem is that the AMG V8 they are fitting in it is putting headline grabbing bhp, torque and acceleration figures ahead of balance.
This is probably where we differ. Weight distribution is a pre-emptive setup you give to a car in prediction of what it will be likely to do once being driven, but it doesn't make miracles: if two cars with the same wheelbase and the same weight distribution but different engine positions enter the same roundabout at the same speed, the defining aspect of handling will be decided by the position of the engine. An M3 or Merc will tend to escape the roundabout and start drifting, because the engine position will tend to drag the center of gravity away from the traction axles; a Porsche will do the opposite, with the center of gravity staying at the back and keeping both wheels down, whilst the front tyres will still have enough authority to direct the trajectory.
To me this is the kind of fine tuning that makes the difference between a good car and a bad one, but as usual marketing is getting in the way and delivering what people like, not necessarily quality.
The abominations produced by Mercedes in the last 10 years are a perfect example of this.
They are very much euro built muscle cars, good for a 1/4 mile drag and power slides, but no delicacy of control or balance.
Unlike the Porsche
I like the 147 GTA, but I personally think it is close to committing the same crime and the AD 3.7 version tips it over.
As much as it's a fascinating car, the 147 GTA is the classic example of engineering done for the sake of marketing. A friend of mine defines driving the 147 GTA as swimming using only your arms
If you ever get the chance, try an Alfa 75 with a 3.2 engine. If you can get over the "mother love only" looks, you will be amazed by how the car performs and it will be a serious love affair.
You say a well balanced chassis can do without electronic aids and I completely agree with you. Where we disagree is that I think a front engined rwd set-up can provide a well balanced chassis and you seem not to.
I'm not saying it can't, but it comes with its limitations. You know how they say that there's no point in having a FWD car with more than 250hp because it won't be able to use them all and blah blah blah? I think these limitations, although somewhat simplistic, are true even for a front engine RWD car.
I think you have to look past what some fools at Merc/AMG choose to do in abusing the configuration and look at how accomplished other efforts have been over the years at producing a superb drivers cars using exactly that same configuration (including alfa). If you maintain the balance between power and mechanical control, front engine rwd is a good configuration. I personally think the E46 (and E39) hit that balance.
I can fully appreciate that some people don't like the looks or prefer another configuration, power plant or make, but being objective that does not make the M3 a bad car, just not the one you would choose.
as I said, the M3 is a great car, I'm just not a fan of cars that are too much of a compromise when it comes to handling.
As for italian opinions of Alfisti. I know a few italians (my wife included) who love Alfa's and their owners (at least I hope so) so does that undo the stereotype that all italians believe all alfa drivers are *****.
I feel a venn diagram coming on...
I am Italian myself and lived there most of my life, it's probably just down to the way alfisti drive there really (and the fact that it's the car of choice of rozzers!) ;-)