First, some history. AMG has been updating and upgrading mid-size two-door Mercs for much longer thank you might think. The go-faster business began in the late 1970s with the W123 range – it came in three different AMG tuning stages, from the humble 2.3-litre four, past a 2.8-litre six, to the mighty 5.0-litre V8.
However, it was not until 2001 that AMG stopped ignoring the entry-level two-door faction and released the 342bhp CLK55. In 2006, the 5.4-litre unit gave way to today’s 6.2, rated at 474bhp in the CLK63 AMG. Even though high-performance coupes did not come much rawer than this, sales were disappointingly slow, and as a result the proposed AMG versions of the E-class Coupe and Cabriolet were ditched.
To fill the void, the Swabian product planners rushed the C63 AMG Coupe to market as a late addition to the range – it shares its 451bhp engine with the C-class saloon and estate. And if you want more, the familiar Performance Package adds 29bhp to the total courtesy of internals from the SLS supercar. Also part of this kit are beefed-up front brakes, a carbonfibre boot lip spoiler, and a Alcantara and leather-rimmed steering wheel with a squared-off bottom.
What else can you tell me about the new Mercedes C63 AMG Coupe?
With the exception of E36 and C43 on which the AMG bodykit was a delete option, go-faster Benzes have always displayed relatively loud liveries. In the case of the C63 Coupe this means piercing LED daytime driving lights, frame-filling tyres, lowered sports suspension, flared wings with matching macho sills, additional air intakes, spoilers front and rear, bespoke wheels and brake calipers, as well as an overdose of carbonfibre inside and out.
Not wild enough? Then opt for the here-I-come 19in rims and the bi-colour seat trim which was dyed Devil´s red and Hell’s black in the case of our white test car. As one would expect, the cabin is a jazzy cocktail of generously applied hide, laminated lightweight fibres and brushed aluminium.
And what’s it like to drive?
Operated via a one-touch joystick, the AMG Speedshift MCT seven-speed automatic ditches the torque converter in favour of a snappier wet multi-disc clutch. The software includes a Race Start function which burns just enough rubber to catapult you forward with maximum efficiency – and a tortured Michelin soundtrack that is catchy enough to interrupt any conversation.
The C63 AMG Coupe is not only about speed and pace and grunt. It also ticks the boxes labelled excess, experience and emotion. Excess, because as soon as you unlock the chastity belt by pushing the ESP button and holding it down for five seconds, lurid oversteer beckons from dawn to dusk. Experience, because this Merc requires a PhD degree in car control to prevent the tail from wagging the dog. Emotion, because this is a highly emphatic plaything that invariably makes the driver talk to himself in loud, short and clear terms.
The best method to get acquainted with the 442lb ft massaging the rear tyres is to select the Handling mode, which is MB-speak for 'Caution – the safety net has been slackened!' In the dry, this intermediate stability control setting permits brief sidesteps from 6 to 9pm on the virtual skidpad. In the wet, however, the swept area increases from 6 to 10 or even 11pm, which is audacious to say the least.
Sounds good so far – does the C63 get better?
Unlike most mainstream Mercedes models, the C63 Coupe is not handicapped by a lazy steering, by a wayward comfort-oriented front suspension and by overly emphatic body movements. Instead, the AMG engineers under Tobias Moers fitted a quicker rack with a 13.5:1 ratio, a made-to-measure triple-link front axle, reinforced multilink rear suspension, wider tracks all-round, stiffer elastokinematics, larger-diameter anti-roll bars, specially tuned springs and dampers, an extra measure of negative camber and wider tyres with 235/40 R18 Pilot Sports in the front.
The 6208cc V8 develops 451bhp at 6800rpm and 442lb ft at 5000rpm. These numbers suggest a high-revving beast, but with over six litres to mix petrol and air, and with this breathing volume spread over eight lungs, the trademark AMG powerplant is a real torquemeister which dives deep into the flexibility reservoir every time you stroke the throttle.
Although the top speed is limited to 156mph, our white weapon managed an indicated 182mph; normally, one would need the 480bhp Performance Pack to push V-max to 181mph and to knock one tenth off the acceleration time.
Bet that big bent eight is pretty thirsty...
Both versions return an identical 23.5mpg – in theory. In real life, our car consumed fuel at the rate of 13.2mpg. Although it is less potent than the 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 installed in the 518bhp CLS63 AMG, the C63 AMG Coupe consumes 17% more petrol than its bigger brother. Over the flat-out sections of the Heilbronn-Würzburg motorway, we could actually watch the needle of the fuel gauge drop from ecstatic to depressed. Since the tank holds only 66 litres, wannabe Nico Rosbergs need to pit every 190 miles.
The reward for depleting our resources at such a rapid rate is a goose pimple-growing mid-range urge which warrants an amazing ground-covering ability. This talent is to a certain extent owed to the attentive gearbox which can act with almost the same foresight and velocity as the two index fingers that are invited to operate the shift paddles. True, dialling in M for Manual does reduce the shift time to a whiplash 100 milliseconds – but Sport+ is almost as quick, and it is so good at holding gears and picking the perfect shift points that you might as well give your digits a rest.
C is not exactly slushmatic-slow, but it automatically selects second when the lights turn green, it tries to engage sixth gear even in city traffic, and it professes smooth shifts and an even smoother accelerator response. S and S+ speed up the action by 25 and 50% respectively, and every time the black box duly blips the throttle like a heel-and-toe pro.
For maximum aural stimulation, you should keep the loud pedal depressed in D and relish the orgasmic yell as the next gear takes over.
The C63 is an honest car – no tricks, no stunts, no choices, no variations. The damper calibration and the steering rate are fixed, there is no AMG button to summon your preferred stage of tune, and there is no M mode and no S mode either. Taking one's pick is limited to the shift speed and the ESP threshold. It's a good role model, this, one I prefer over Audi Drive Select and its endless extras and over BMW's ironically named M Drivelogic menu.
True, the other two cars allow you to soften the suspension setting and to tweak the handling attitude, but at the end of the day the one-calibration-fits-all approach chosen by Mercedes is more transparent and thus more confidence-inspiring.
So what´s the verdict – heads or tails? For a start, the C63 AMG Coupe cannot conceal its true age. It may be a new bodystyle, but it uses the architecture of a product launched in 2007, which itself was a rehash of the 2000 C-class. As a result it is heavy, drinks too much, and lacks the final tenth in terms of poise and agility.
No, the latest Coupe by the now factory-owned AMG division is not the right choice for high-tech aficionados and eco-weenies. But there is absolutely no doubt that the ballsy Benz will satisfy power-hungry hardcore hooligans who are craving street cred, on-demand drama and plenty of beautiful noise.
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