2012 Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG: 6.3-litre V8 with AMG Performance package, AMG Speedshift MCT seven-speed sports transmission, 358kW/600Nm. Options: AMG 19-inch matt black alloys, KEYLESS-GO, rear electric roller blind, AMG locking differential, tyre pressure monitoring system: Price as tested: $177,860
At full throttle when the tacho needle is nudging 7200rpm it’s hard to think of anything that sounds better than this thing, and that includes some of the world’s most exciting supercars. The four large AMG-badged pipes at the back produce one of the most glorious exhaust notes on the planet that you simply never tire of.
It’s not just during the act of heavy throttle input that produces this wonderful mechanical chorus either; every time you fire up the hand-built 6.3-litre V8 there’s a sharp, angry crackle similar to what you would expect from a DTM racer in pit lane.
That Holy Grail of combinations: big engine with a truck load of grunt in a small body, is already producing that ‘must have’ feeling, and at well under 160K (before on-road costs), the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG is all yours. That need to own becomes even more desperate when it suddenly dawns on you that AMG’s junior heavyweight also doubles as an entirely practical four-door family chariot, complete with a decent-sized boot and enough room for five adults.
With a no-nonsense 358kW (if you chose the optional AMG Performance package – and you must) and a stomping 600Nm, the C 63 AMG might well be considered one of the world’s least expensive supercars – well almost. Dial up the ‘RS’ (that’s short for Race Start) and give the throttle a boot full and you’ll go from 0-100km/h in 4.4 seconds. That’s quicker than both the BMW M3 Coupe and the Aston Martin Vantage S. Keep your right foot planted and, if you’re lucky enough to be on the autobahn, you’ll quickly realise its top speed of 250km/h (electronically limited, of course).
You can thank the SLS AMG for that extra performance by way of a technology transfer that includes forged pistons and connecting rods, as well as a lightweight crankshaft from the gullwing supercar. All these inclusions help to lighten the load and reduce friction, allowing the naturally aspirated powerplant to redline at an unusually high 7250rpm. Who says you need turbos? On the rare occasion when you are able to wind her up to anywhere close to this level, just make sure to kill the superb Harman/Kardon audio in plenty of time to hear the full-scale assault of 6.3 litres of V8 muscle in full flight.
Even without the AMG Performance package, the 6.3 litre V8 is still a bespoke piece of engineering and is said to be extremely robust. It also falls into the category of properly hand-built engines, under AMG’s philosophy of 'one man, one engine'. You can see the engraved plaque on top of the engine cover - that’s the signature of the engineer who built this particular engine, or at least oversaw its build and assembly.
Although it’s been around since 2005, it’s actually AMG’s most popular engine to date with more than 68,000 units built, and is the recipient of numerous ‘best engine’ awards.
Equally rewarding as far as driveability goes is the seven-speed multi-clutch transmission. AMG calls it the AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT seven-speed sports transmission, and again, this is a superb piece of engineering that’s new to the 2012 C 63 model. With multiple driver settings including Comfort, Sports and Sports+, drivers can choose the perfect engine/transmission character for any conditions, and yes, they really do change the character of the car in a dramatic fashion.
Comfort mode ('C') is perfect for suburban duties or peak-hour madness. Standing starts are performed in second gear for silky smooth motion and there’s a gentle throttle response. Of course, even in C mode, the C 63 AMG can morph into a virtual DTM car, if you choose to drop the throttle in anger. It’s what makes this car so easy to live with on a day-to-day basis.
Twist the small rotary dial next to the drive selector to ‘S’ and throttle response is instantly more rapid. The shift points change too now that the engine is allowed to rev higher in each gear ratio before shifting up. It’s quicker again when you select either 'S+' or ‘M’ - that’s when up-shifts at full throttle happen in just 100 milliseconds and things go by in a blur, literally.
You can use the perfectly good paddle shifters, but once you’re in any of the Sport modes, there’s almost no point. This AMG MCT box will do it better than you, and that includes the downshifts. Several times I came into turns at high speed and under late braking, and was rewarded with some seriously quick double-declutching downshifts from sixth down to second without lifting a finger off the steering wheel. It’s one of the most addictive in-car processes you are likely to experience in anything short of a Ferrari 458 Italia, but for that kind of money you could buy a fleet of C 63 AMGs.
It’s also one of the smoothest multi-clutch transmissions going, with none of the nervousness displayed by those used by several other European manufacturers.
You’ll notice the RS setting, which allows for full-traction off-the-line race starts for track days and such, but wasn’t tested during this strictly on-road evaluation.
It handles well too, especially given its rather hefty 1730kg mass and the weight of the big V8 up front. Turn in is sharp enough, as is steering response, and traction from the 255s down the back is better than expected even under heavy load. There’s plenty of front-end grip even when pushed. The chassis feels solid and the body stiff, but you’re certainly aware of the additional weight compared with its closest competitor, the BMW M3.
As an AMG version of the best selling C-Class, its suspension has been specially designed to accommodate the extra loads that this high-powered machine is capable of generating at any given time. Underneath is a sophisticated three-link front setup, which is 36mm wider than the standard model, as per the extra-wide front wheel guards. Even the wheel location has been stiffened by 100 per cent, providing more stability and accuracy when cornering.
The multi-link rear suspension has been reinforced in the driveshaft and joints and the result is loads of stability through the bends in almost all road conditions. It didn’t seem to matter what the quality of the road surface was like, the C 63 AMG never got out of shape or ruffled. There’s almost no body roll to speak of despite some early tip in if going into a corner hard, and the car is totally well behaved in these situations.
It’s a similar story with the ride quality too. The AMG-worked suspension has absolutely no difficulty ironing out the bumps on the worst of road surfaces (the norm in Sydney) and that includes a wide variety of speed humps that litter suburbia these days.
The brakes aren’t half bad either; large, slotted and perforated composite discs with six-pot calipers for front stoppers, while four-pots on solid discs make do down the back. You need exceptional brakes on any AMG car with this much power and these are that and then some. The progressive pedal feel is also a welcome characteristic of this braking system as is the brakes' ability to rapidly wipe off speed.
I wouldn’t mind selling AMGs for a living, provided the prospects have the resources and provided you can get them behind the wheel, even for a just a drive around the block. It would take all of five minutes before they had a permanent grin on their face, and that would just be the exhaust note and acceleration doing the talking. But what you also have going for you is that ‘don’t mess with me’ styling and the A-List cachet of both the Mercedes-Benz and AMG brands.
Whereas the four-door version of the M3 looks somewhat disproportional, the C 63 AMG sedan is every bit the ‘looker’. The front end with the large Mercedes-Benz star and the more aggressive front splitter reveals hints of the SL 63 AMG Roadster (good thing). The bonnet is now fabricated in aluminium, the power bulges have been modified accordingly and the AMG daytime running lights finish off the contemporary look.
If the front of the C 63 looks the business, it’s the rear view that delivers the killer looks. It’s the four tuner-size AMG pipes and the three-finned diffuser in black that sets this car off good and proper. I don’t mind the colour either; it’s called Fire Opal and it befits the racing heritage of AMG performance tuning.
The 19-inch matt black alloys an optional extra, but at $1980 in total I’d take a set as they are a particularly good contrast to the glossy red exterior.
Mercedes-Benz does some very nice interiors but don’t think because the C 63 AMG is based on the humble C-Class that things are anything less than sophisticated inside this cockpit. The AMG's ‘sand nappa leather’ sport seats up front are my new favourite pews. The leather is superbly soft and supple, yet at the same time they offer more side bolster than that Ferrari I mentioned earlier. If it’s too tight a squeeze for you, then you can adjust them electrically (less bolster), and every which way.
The three-spoke flat-bottom AMG steering wheel is a work of art. It’s lifted straight from the CLS 63 AMG, only this one is part of the optional AMG Performance pack kit with Alcantara grip inserts for added tactility and that special look.
There is no shortage of metal highlights inside the cabin either, but it’s entirely tasteful and strikes the perfect balance between functionality and first-class quality. It’s not all about performance with AMG, not with the extensive inventory of creature comforts the C 63 comes loaded with. From electric everything to a very useful centre mounted HD display screen that is able to access a multitude of functions including Bluetooth phone and music streaming, Sat Nav and video, among others.
Have I mentioned fuel consumption? While I have no doubt that the 12.0 litres/100km (combined) that Mercedes-Benz lists in the press kit for this vehicle has been tested in line with the correct standards, the reality is that your C 63 AMG will generally use significantly more fuel than this, like a tank every few days. There’s really no reason why you can’t toddle around suburbia and to and from the office in the ‘C’ setting without ever giving it a boot full of throttle. But the fact is, you’re never going to drive this car in such a manner. The acceleration and exhaust note will prevent you from doing so. My advice is don’t look at the fuel gauge until you see the warning light, and that will be quite often.
Safety gets a big tick in the C 63 AMG too with a host of active and passive systems to make travelling in such a high-speed car all that more safe. Standard in the C 63 AMG is ABS, adaptive high beam assist, Attention Assist, three-stage ESP, headlamp assist, Parktronic including parking guidance, Pre-safe, Pre-safe brake, cruise control with Speedtronic variable speed-limiter and a full compliment of airbags.
When you factor in the relentless performance from its 6.3-litre monster V8, the four doors and boot, the outstanding sports seats, race-style steering wheel, the luxury look and feel inside the cockpit, the ride and handling, and of course, the $152,000 sticker price, it’s hard to think of anything that could trump the C 63 AMG as a daily driver for the moderately cashed-up enthusiast.
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