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2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG coupe.
What is it?
The powerful, rapid and loud range-topping version of Mercedes-Benz's new C-class coupe lineup, the C63 AMG coupe. Sister car to the recently face-lifted C63 AMG sedan with which it shares elements of its styling, mechanical package and excellent interior. It takes over from the CLK55 AMG, providing renewed competition for the likes of the Audi RS5, BMW M3 and Lexus IS F.
Powering the latest in an ever growing range of Mercedes-Benz performance models is its naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V8 engine. As in the C63 AMG sedan, it kicks out a nominal 451 hp at 6,800 rpm. However, an optional Performance package, which brings the same lightweight pistons, connecting rods and crankshaft as those used in the SLS, bumps its power up to 480 hp.
That is 37 hp more than the RS5's 4.2-liter V8 can manage, a substantial 66 hp beyond the M3's 4.0-liter V8 and an additional 63 hp over the IS F's 5.0-liter V8. The C63 AMG coupe trumps its rivals on torque, too, possessing 443 lb-ft at 5,000 rpm--some 370 lb-ft of which is available between 2,000 and 6,250 rpm.
Just one gearbox choice is offered: AMG's seven speed multi-clutch transmission. It is based on the standard C-class coupe's seven speed 7G-tronic automatic unit but replaces the torque converter with an automatically operated clutch for more rapid shifting. As in other AMG models, it comes with remote shift paddles and offers four driving modes, including manual which sees it hold on to gears at the redline rather than automatically select the next gear. There's also a race start mode.
The C63 AMG coupe uses a different chassis setup than regular versions of the C-class coupe. The biggest change concerns the track measurements, which are up by 0.8 inch to 61.8 inches at the front, and down by 1.1 inches at the rear to 60.0 inches.
The setup of the three-link front and multi-link rear suspension has also been modified in some detail, with greater negative camber, reduced ride height, unique spring and damper rates and larger diameter up anti-roll bars--all aimed at bringing added response, extending grip levels and introducing improved body control. Underpinning it all are relatively narrow 235/40ZR-18 front and 255/35ZR-18 rear Continental Sport Contact tires.
What is it like to drive?
A lot like the C63 AMG sedan in overall character. But given they share their entire mechanical package save for a few unique chassis tweaks we really didn't expect anything else from the C63 AMG coupe. Still, one thing is clear. Even before you've turn a wheel, it makes the old CLK55 AMG that was built up to 2009 appear just that--old.
Predictably, the driving experience is dominated by the engine. It might been replaced by a newer twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter mill in other Mercedes-Benz performance models, but the big, naturally aspirated V8 is as memorable as ever, possessing a truly potent combination of response and firepower.
As impressive as the outright power is the ease at which you can tap into the vast reserves of torque. There's prodigious shove pretty much from idle onward. Reach the mid-range and it is nothing short of explosive. The performance is effortless, enabling it to reach seriously high speeds without seemingly drawing breath. On top of this, it makes a wonderful sound at full throttle, emitting a deep baritone growl that full befits its muscle car brief.
Just how fast the rear-wheel-drive C63 AMG coupe is in a straight line is fully reflected in Mercedes-Benz's official performance claims, which put its 0 to 62 mph time at just 4.3 seconds when running the optional Performance Package. That's a bit faster than the RS5 (4.6 seconds), M3 (4.8 seconds) and IS F (4.8 seconds), and if our experience with the C63 AMG sedan is any guide, it'll likely go faster still in independent testing. Top speed, even with the Performance Package, is limited to 155mph.
Still, there's a lot more to this car than an immensely powerful engine and rapid acceleration. The C63 AMG coupe also engages with the sort of handling, response and balance that sees it closely challenge the RS5, M3 and IS F for outright driver appeal.
There's an absorbing completeness to its dynamic repertoire that allows you confidently explore its limits on public roads. Part of this is due to AMG development boss Tobias Moers' insistence that the new car come with relative narrow rubber, resisting calls from the design department to improve its visual appeal with larger tires. This helps imbue it with a delicacy within the steering that has typically been lacking in some of Mercedes-Benz performance models. The rack and pinion system is keen in its action and provide a good deal of feedback.
Moers, whose credits include the SLS among the current lineup of AMG models, was also the driving force behind the decision to provide the new car with a multi-stage electronic stability program system that allows you to increase the threshold when the conditions allow. It can even be turned off completely for lurid tail out action. As part of the Performance Package available for this car, he's also managed to provide it with a lock differential, which brings absolutely superb traction and rabid drive out of corners. Despite its ability to carry big speeds into corners, it is remarkably well composed. It never feels ragged or edgy.
Criticisms? There are a few. The downside of providing the C63 AMG coupe with such outstanding body control is a fairly firm ride. It's not harsh but it can be caught out when the road surface is not perfectly smooth. The gearbox also lacks the rapid fire qualities of the double clutch units that are offered as optional equipment on the RS5 and M3, especially on upshifts. The C63 AMG coupe's combined fuel consumption of just 19.6 mpg is also a little on the high side in comparison its rivals.
Do I want one?
No doubt about it, Mercedes-Benz has pulled off something special with the C63 AMG coupe. But given the praise we've heaped on the C63 AMG sedan in recent times, that's no real surprise.
Apart from being seriously quick in a straight line and boasting such accessible performance, it is also a genuinely exciting car to thread down a challenging back road thanks to the inherent sharpness and engaging qualities of its chassis.
Whether you'd choose it over the RS5, M3 and IS F really depends on your priorities. As an everyday proposition, the C63 AMG coupe would certainly take some beating. It's just so unforced, so effortless in the way it goes about its business. And for many, that's going to count more than anything else.
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