Daimler’s Dark Knight Gets Personal
2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe
Let’s be honest. We all want to save our barnacled friends in the ocean and give the whole world a great big polar bear hug. But as enthusiasts, we’ve all got a char-black underbelly, too. Mercedes-Benz understands. More specifically, the folks at AMG really understand. While Daimler has been working diligently this year to reduce its offerings’ various footprints and curb their dependence on gas, the people there haven’t lost sight of the fact that, occasionally, enthusiasts need to put away their canvas Whole Foods bags and indulge their dark side a bit.
How else to explain the 2012 C63 AMG Coupe? Not only is this new coupe bodystyle more self-absorbed by definition, Mercedes has ensured it qualifies for full homewrecker status by passing over its excellent new 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 in favor of the 6.2-liter V8 it was designed to replace. But for those interested in indulging their inner baddy, this is actually a very good thing. While the modestly downsized and significantly more efficient 5.5-liter is a wonderfully flexible and more powerful thing in Benz’s spectacular new CLS63 AMG, we have yet to connect with it on the same visceral, loin-stirring level as the almighty 6.2, mostly because of its less burly soundtrack. Mercedes may have eschewed the higher-tech motor on cost-savings grounds, but it’s also the correct choice for retaining the C63’s chain-smoking sprinter character.
We’ve regaled you previously with tales of radial-roasting derring-do from behind the wheel of the C63 AMG sedan, and this long-awaited two-door only amplifies our fondness for this Affalterbach-educated musclecar. The 6.2-liter brings 451 horses into the corral, and while they can be a well-behaved bunch when necessary, owners will want to exercise them frequently and take advantage of the 443 pound-feet of torque that gallop along with them. Peak torque arrives at 5,000 rpm and horsepower doesn’t climax until 6,500 rpm (just 700 rotations shy of redline), but that’s not the impediment it might seem. There’s still plenty of low-end torque, and this V8 is a remarkably low-inertia proposition, its revs rising and falling with a quickness that rivals engines half its size and cylinder-count. The best part? When it clears its throat, the 6.2 sounds like the Blind Boys of Alabama busking on the corner of Smith and Wesson. Delicious.
Of course, if that’s not enough firepower for you, AMG will be happy to throw in some of the internals from the SLS AMG gullwing – namely a lighter crank and connecting rods, along with forged pistons and the obligatory ECU reflash. The optional Development Package cuts the 6.2’s reciprocating mass by seven pounds and boosts horsepower by 30, but peak torque remains at 443. Mercedes says these changes result in a revvier-still engine, clip a tenth of a second off of the 0-60 mph time (4.3 seconds instead of 4.4) and the ECU lets out the top speed from 155 mph to 174, but if someone doesn’t drive off the showroom floor and record a sub-four second 0-60, we’ll be rather shocked. Like the rest of the car, Benz hasn’t priced the Development Package just yet, but a similar kit on the 2011 car costs $6,050 – a substantial sum for which Mercedes says the majority of buyers have been willing to pony up.
We’ve enjoyed a lot of time in the pre-facelift C63 sedan, and over the undulating country roads around Seville, Spain and over Circuito Monteblanco’s 18 turns and 2.75 miles, the coupe felt a bit more poised in corners, though if you relax the three-mode ESP, it will still adopt hilariously absurd slip angles when throttle steer is called for.
The C63 Coupe’s speed-sensitive steering also feels a bit keener, and these alterations will doubtlessly invite more BMW M3 comparisons and track face-offs. Of course, this improved communication could be down to the retuned shocks, springs and bushings (along with dialing in a bit more negative camber) and not the coupe body structure – we haven’t had the chance to compare it against the 2012 sedan yet. Either way, the new C63 in both two- and four-door guise feels a bit more precise without giving up the wonderfully black-hearted antics that the old sedan offered on demand so willingly.
Some will no doubt grouse that Benz still doesn’t offer a C63 with three pedals, but these are individuals who probably have never experienced the sweetness that is the Speedshift Plus 7-speed gearbox. Rifling off 100-millisecond cog swaps via the cold, metal paddles while gripping the flat-bottom-and-top Alcantara wheel is plenty involving on both the road and track. The transmission’s double-clutch-like quickness has been made possible by a lack of a torque converter (there’s a small wet clutch for getting underway), but it still trades away some very low-speed refinement in exchange.
We think our tester’s sinister matte black paint suits the C63 Coupe’s character perfectly, so it’s a shame that it won’t be available Stateside. We’re less convinced of the visual merits of its 19-inch 16-spoke alloys, mostly because the polished lips look a bit too ‘aftermarket’ for our tastes, but the standard-in-America 18-inch five-spokers will do us just fine, thank you.
The rest of the C63 Coupe’s exterior is suitably menacing, with gaping air inlets, scowling new headlamps with LED running lamps, an aluminum ‘powerdome’ hood (the ridges look sensationally aggressive in matte), and a massive rear diffuser between the twin exhaust outlets that leaves a powerful parting impression.
There’s plenty of room inside for four adult occupants, as the coupe retains the C63 sedan’s 108.9-inch wheelbase. Headroom can get a bit tight for those longer of torso and rear seat occupants don’t have the best view of the world (we wish Benz had figured out how to delete the B-pillar for improved visibility and aesthetics like the E- and CL-Class coupes).
The interior alterations made to the entire 2012 C-Class line help quite a bit, notably the improved dashboard (the old one had an odd sandpaper-like quality) and the multi-color displays that feature new capabilities. The optional-for-Europe white enamel trim on this test car didn’t really float our boats, but U.S. cars will be fitted with aluminum trim unless the buyer specifies wood or carbon fiber.
Curiously and rather disappointingly, Mercedes admits the coupe actually weighs more than the sedan. While we had hoped for a bit of loss in the doorectomy process, the C Coupe has inexplicably gained 167 pounds – presumably in part due to the standard moonroof and structural reinforcements, as the coupe is a bit stiffer than its four-door counterpart. Even so, at a little over 3,800 pounds, it’s still only about 100 pounds heavier than its Roundel rival.
So, is the new C63 Coupe better than the M3? That’s hard to say. With its newfound precision, we can see the Benz giving even more fits to the BMW on tracks – particularly longer circuits that reward the C63’s tremendous torque advantage. More importantly, we think the Benz’s power delivery and fabulous noises make it more entertaining more of the time when out on the street.
While the EPA hasn’t weighed in yet, Mercedes estimates fuel economy at a Saudi-pleasing 19.6 miles per gallon combined. Of course, if you listen to the little devil on your shoulder wearing the AMG ball cap, you’ll doubtlessly knock fuel economy back into the early teens. Our advice? Buy your spouse a Prius, make an anonymous donation to the World Wildlife Fund and plant a few trees to assuage your guilt. It’ll be worth it.