Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG

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Road Test

Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black driven

Driven January 2012

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The C63 AMG Coupe Black Series was never meant to happen. It wasn't in AMG's product plan, and there wasn't any bean-counting business reason for doing it. It was just done as a bit of fun by some of the AMG engineers and designers while their co-workers were all on summer holiday. Then the boss returned, saw it and commissioned it on the spot. Eighteen months later - a blink of an eye in normal car development terms - the finished car is here. And what a weapon it is.

Previous recent experience with the raucous CLK and frankly overwhelming SL65 AMG Black Series models suggests they are tuned by the lunatic fringe of the factory's tuning department. Both have power outputs a long way north of enough. The C63 AMG Coupe Black Series (I'm just going to call it the CBS from now on) is no different.

You might think it's just a hopped-up version of the already-angry C63 AMG, but it's not. When you drill down into the spec sheet, you find it owes more to its big brother, the AMG SLS, than to its sister car. At 517bhp, it produces 60bhp more than the regular C63 AMG and just 46bhp less than the gullwinged one. The only things I can think of that aren't ecstatic about those numbers are the rear tyres.

The reason the CBS is so close to the SLS's power output is thanks to some unselfish sharing of parts by the bigger car. Both engines are 6.2-litre V8s, so there was plenty for the AMG engineers to plunder from the SLS's M159 and cram into the CBS's M156 engine. Things like forged pistons, con rods, crankshaft and an enlarged oil cooler. Once they had that lot packed in, they lobbed in a brand new,
clearly lobotomised, brain to run it, before slamming the bonnet and running away.

A sensible move, that, as the CBS can sprint to 62mph in just 4.2secs, using the same AMG Speedshift MCT seven-speed transmission from the standard C63 AMG. Featuring four modes - none of which includes an economy stop/start function - and a Race Start button, it can swap gears as fast as a Ferrari FXX. Which is fast.

And because it uses a ‘lite' version of the SLS engine, there are no turbos to muffle or reduce in any way the heavy-metal soundtrack being mixed in the eight cylinders and produced by the free-flowing eight-into-two-into-four exhaust. So every time you change up or down, the CBS has all the same grin-making sound effects. It's worth buying one of these for this alone.

But the good news is you don't have to, as the handling is great, too. Instead of the standard C63 AMG's set-up, the CBS, like all Black Series models, gets adjustable (for damping and ride height) KW coilover suspension and a host of other chassis goodies to liven up the proceedings. The front and rear tracks are wider, by 40mm and 79mm respectively, the torsion bar stabilisers are reworked and the steering's speed-sensitive power assistance has been remapped to give it a more mechanical feel.

With all the forward motion bits sorted, the brakes have also been reworked to cope with the higher velocities. The anti-lock braking system now intervenes later and the standard brake discs have been replaced by much larger (390mm front, 360mm rear) ventilated carbon-composite numbers all round. Completing the effect are some red-painted, six-piston front calipers and four-piston efforts at the rear.

To advertise all this mechanical change - and keep it channelled down into the track or road - the CBS's exterior styling has also been on the angry sauce. Mercedes would like you to think it looks a teensy bit like the SLS AMG GT3 car, which Mika Häkkinen is campaigning next year, but, of course, it doesn't. The rear diffusers of both cars do sprout proudly out of the back of both cars, and they both have unfeasibly large front- and rear-wheel blisters and sills. But that's about it.

Not that it's any problem. With huge air intakes and lightweight gunmetal wheels (11kg lighter a set than standard), the CBS looks just like what it is: a well-heeled hooligan with a season ticket to the track. It can be made to look even harder if you opt for the Aerodynamics Package, which adds a carbon-fibre front splitter, carbon-fibre adjustable rear spoiler and carbon-fibre flics on the side pods. Or, if you want to keep it subtle, the Track Package, which adds super-sticky Dunlop tyres and a rear-axle transmission radiator. The sensible thing to do is spec both. It would be like buying a horse without a saddle if you didn't.

Inside the cabin, there are all the bits you might expect - a pair of bucket seats, red safety belts and stitching, a delete-option rear-bench seat and an Alcantara-covered AMG Performance steering wheel. But there's also a new AMG Performance Media system that allows you to look at, download and brag endlessly about your track heroics. Everything from lateral (side to side) and linear (acceleration and braking) acceleration plus lap times can be measured. You can even programme in a course of your own - such as your drive to work - and then compare your sector times between, say, roundabouts, each day.

But it's not like you'll need that system to tell you how much fun you are having in the CBS. Thrash it around a race track, or along your favourite back road, and you'll get the message pretty quickly. It's got all the power you need to get you into a tonne of trouble and the chassis capability to get you out of it, which is precisely what you want in a sports car.

If the C63 AMG Coupe Black Series is what happens when AMG engineers don't go on holiday, can I make a suggestion? The company should cancel all leave for the next decade.

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