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German Pit Bull – An Afternoon with the C63 AMG

Posted on 27 June 2012 by Adam Kaslikowski

The BMW M3 has ruled the fast family-car segment since it’s inception 26 years ago. It seemed to come out of nowhere and immediately took the world by storm. But as any boy-band member will tell you, keeping that kind of supremacy for 2+ decades is no easy feat. Having just spent some time with the Mercedes challenger to the M3, the C63 AMG, I can tell you that BMW’s reign of the market is no longer so secure. Indeed, the AMG makes a compelling case for itself, but is it enough to rule? Keep reading to find out…

The C63 AMG is squat, aggressive looking, and has a wide, flat face just like the pit bull it resembles. There is a meanness here, a barely-restrained violence. On the outside, hood and wheel-arch bulges tell the world that you’re in something unique and masculine, while the chrome and LEDs cement its Germanic luxury. A large gaping mouth under the prominent Mercedes star funnels air into the engine and wolfs down unsuspecting squirrels with equal glee. The door mirrors seem oddly far from the doors themselves, but this disparity disappears once you’re inside the cabin. Overall, the exterior is a well executed evolution of the C class and nicely projects the car’s power onto the world around it. Unfortunately, as attractive as the muscle-bound body kit is on the outside, the massive hood bulges leave much to be desired once you are driving. They dominated my view from the cabin and blend into the fenders in such a way that I was unable to discern where my front wheels where located – a major hurdle when attempting to cut through corners, kiss an apex, or simply parallel park.

The interior is generally well laid-out, with a few odd placement choices mixed in. There is a surprisingly tasteful carbon-fiber strip running along the dash (one of the few times, it seems, that carbon fiber in the interior is well deserved), and most of the major buttons fall easily to hand while driving. The seats kept both my skinny frame and my plus-sized passenger (Hi Richard!) firmly in place during all of my aggressive driving. Even when we settled down a bit – which was rare – the sporty thrones were still comfortable and plush. Lastly, the trunk in the C63 is enormous. 3 dead bodies AND a golf bag enormous. If you’re a hit man/woman who plays golf with your boss afterward, this is the ride for you.

Only two things really let me down in the interior. Firstly, the rear seats seemed completely useless. They look fine if you are transporting double amputees around town but to anyone with legs you’ve been warned. Secondly, and by far the biggest annoyance in the cabin was the location and operation of the cruise control stalk. For some daft reason, Ze Germans have opted to angle the stalk at a 45 degree angle on top of the signal arm. That doesn’t sound like much, until literally within 10 minutes I engaged the cruise control 3 times while changing lanes. The first time this happened I couldn’t figure out what was going on – regardless of which gear I shifted down to the speed stayed the same. I thought I had broken the $62,000 car I’d just been given the keys to, and disengaging the cruise wasn’t the most intuitive motion either. Even after I had learned and remarked about how stupid it was for that control to be there, I still tripped it two more times. For a device as seldom used as cruise control (compared to your signals), it is inexcusable that it should take a superior place to other controls. Mercedes – put the stalk below the signals next time.

On the road, the C63  is a beast of temptation. Not unlike the Sirens of Greek mythology luring sailors into the rocks with their beautiful singing, here the harmonious song has been replaced with a roar straight out of Hades. And the sailors? They’ve been replaced with you, the driver. Pit bull or Cerberus, this car growls. Oh, and that bark! Violently back off the throttle anywhere above 3000rpm and you will be treated to the loudest, meanest, sharpest, and most importantly dirtiest sound to ever come out of a Mercedes. A lovely, lovely, dirty noise. And revving up to and beyond that 3000rpm to the 6,800 redline? Just as filthy… I can’t describe how good this car sounds, and describing things is my job. Go to your local dealership, give the salesperson 20 bucks, stand a few feet away and have them just rev that monstrous V8 up and down for 3 minutes. After the growing growl of the revs and the bark of the overrun you’ll need a change of pants.

Aural stimulation is good and all (and it is very, very good here), but the mighty Merc will need more than shock and awe to fell the Goliath that is the M3. This car needs to drive. That it does – start, stop, corner, the C63 will do it all with aplomb. The sheer aggression with which the 443 lb-ft of torque explodes from a dead stop makes city driving an exercise in blasting between stop lights. Everything is a race in this car, whether it’s an Aston next to you or a Camry. This would certainly get tiresome on a day to day basis, but it didn’t while I had the keys.

The violent acceleration this car’s 451 hp V8 is capable of is a never-ending treat. 1st gear 0 to 40, 2nd gear 40 to 80, on and on with sweet, crisp shifts in-between accomplished through perfectly weighted paddles. Pull off a good start and you’ll see 0-60 in 4.4 seconds. And even though the AMG is basically a German re-envisioning of the muscle-car, this thing can still go around corners, brake, and steer with a commanding presence. The C63 is remarkably balanced and poised during high-speed maneuvering.

It’s not all hell-fire however. This being a modern Merc, there are about 197 safety nets between you and the powerslide of your life. You never feel that bit of terror that makes driving ridiculously fast cars so enjoyable, and that’s a shame. The C63 comes with 3 driving settings: Comfort, Sport, and Sport+. Regular DrivingScene readers will know already that I found the Comfort and Sport settings utterly useless – opting instead to experience the full monty of this car’s potential for most of the time. However, I will happily say that the 3 different settings do actually make a noticeable change to the car and are all quite unique from each other. Kudos to Mercedes on that one.

Comfort slips the feisty AMG some horse tranquilizers and chills everything out. With the big C selected, it is ALMOST conceivable that you could drive the C63 peacefully and without malice. Well, not really. That dirty soundtrack is always spurring you on to plant your right foot. The Sport setting is probably meant to be enough to satisfy a normal human being. Pulling the normal routine of sharpening up the suspension and throttle response, this setting gives you a taste of what this car is capable of. But you want to go venti, skip to S+ and fully enjoy what a legion of engineers spent considerable hours of their lives perfecting. The slip allowed by the S+ setting is addicting, and AMG has done a great job of dialing in a heavy and communicative steering set-up. Inputs are direct and immediately translated into direction changes, which is handy as the odds are that you will generally be traveling at a very high rate of speed in this car.

Whatever the drive setting and whatever the road, the driving experience is the C63 is dominated by the need to go faster. Whether as an excuse to hear that V8 soundtrack or to see the world outside the windows warp by, you will always find yourself standing on the loud pedal. I know that sounds great, but it made me doubt that I could use the AMG as a daily driver. The temptation to be a child is just too much to resist. Owning this car would make you a more aggressive and thoughtless driver. Said another way, owning this car would turn you into a typical Mercedes driver.

In the final analysis, the Mercedes C63 AMG is an awesome car. Not awesome in the 12-yr-old-just-got-a-text sense, but awesome in the actually awe-inspiring way. The depth of engineering and the turn of speed is incredible. It is the perfect M3 rival for those that want something with a bit more brute intent. Although I would do anything to get the noise the Merc is capable of in my life everyday, I’m not sure I could drive this car day in day out. It is just too tempting and counter-intuitive to drive this car at anything resembling a reasonable pace. But when you can let your hair down and blast along on a canyon road, there are few cars I would rather have than the C63. If you’re looking for a second car with the stance and bark of a pit bull, the pace of a greyhound, and the poise of a foxhound, then the AMG wizards have bred the perfect car for you.

– Adam Kaslikowski

 

 

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