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Mercedes-Benz C-Class Car Review | Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG | August 8, 2007

Driven August 2007

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The car looks good, too - not overblown, but understated and quietly evil in the way a fast Mercedes should be. That includes the twin bonnet bulges, which are purely cosmetic, 19-inch titanium grey wheels (18s are standard) and excellent dark inserts in the headlight clusters. The whole effect is superb.

What doesn't work so well - yet - is the transmission. The 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic is smooth enough when left to its own devices on the road, but it's too slow to react in manual mode - you hit the paddle behind the steering wheel and there's almost one second's delay before the car changes gear, up or down.

That's not good enough, especially when the new M3 will come with a dual-clutch robotised manual from next March, which will give instant changes. Hopefully, AMG can work some magic here before the car hits the showroom.

Interesting that we're almost at the end of the story and I haven't mentioned the car's performance on the road. That's a good sign, because its prowess on the track speaks volumes.

The roads around Le Castellet are too smooth to make a final judgement on ride quality, but I'd hazard a guess that the stiffer suspension of the Performance Pack version still has enough compliance to make it comfortable in most conditions. I'll never have the money to buy one of these cars, but if I did, I'd splurge the extra few grand for the PP spec.

The standard car still handles well, but it's significantly softer. Once we've tried them on British roads, we'll make a proper judgement. The new C-Class's best qualities are all here, though - superb build quality and trim materials, high levels of refinement and a comfortable cabin, front and rear. Especially so with the superb AMG bucket seats.

Ultimately, a comparison between the CL63 AMG and the new BMW M3 - and we shouldn't forget the Audi RS4, a car the AMG boys have studied closely and respect greatly - will be close, and will boil down to what the owner wants from the machine.

Maybe the M3 will be more precise, the Merc a better all-rounder, with the Audi somewhere in between as the best all-weather car. But 'all-rounder' might not be good enough.

Talking to AMG boss Volker Mornhinweg , seems like he's aiming to beat BMW M-Sport at its own game. I told him I didn't like the transmission much, thought it was too slack and soft, and his eyes lit up at that.

"Just wait," he said. He wouldn't tell me what he's up to, but he's definitely up to something.

Bill Thomas

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