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Wednesday 25th May 2011


DRIVEN: MERCEDES C63 AMG COUPE

Mercedes adds a new gearbox and a new bodystyle to a familiar recipe - and it still tastes very good


Mega. It's the only word that has repeatedly come to mind when trying to begin this article. So, while it is perhaps not the most imaginative way to describe the new C63 AMG coupe, it is at least apt. Because AMG's latest offering really is. Mega, that is.

But then that's no major surprise, because the saloon and estate version of the C63 AMG are pretty brilliant already.

In this case, to the already proven mix of plain ol' rear-wheel drive and monumental power from that 6208cc V8 you can add the new, rakish (if somewhat conservative) body of the C-class coupe, as well as all the various improvements recently bestowed upon the humble C-class saloon and coupe (including a much fresher dashboard). Perhaps most crucially of all, Mercedes' new (ish) MCT-7 automatic transmission is also installed, bringing with it a wet start-up clutch in lieu of a torque converter, faster shift times and a rotary knob which provides no fewer than four gearbox settings.


The standard C-class coupe is a competent enough thing. Its lower stance (41mm lower than the C-class saloon) helps it to feel both more planted and sharper than its four-door cousin, while the new, more modern interior (largely shared with the rest of the C-class range), with its better dash plastics and new trim combinations, is a marked improvement over the original C-class cabin. For those wanting a fulfilling drive on a winding road, however, the C-class coupe will definitely leave you wanting more.

No such accusation could be levelled at the C63 coupe. As we've pretty much come to expect from AMG's 6.2-litre V8, the 451bhp mill (478bhp with the optional performance pack) serves up a relentless wall of forward thrust accompanied by a gargling wail to warm the cockles of any muscle car fan's heart. AMG's engineers can't actually fit the firm's new 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 into the engine bay of the C-class, so C63 AMG coupe buyers have to 'put up' with the 'old' naturally aspirated engine. But believe us when we say that it really doesn't feel like a compromise.


The engine is also given a whole new lease of life by coupling it up to the MCT-7 transmission. This is not a new combination - the same engine/gearbox combo, broadly speaking, also serves in the E63 AMG and the CLS63 AMG, but the contrast with the 7G-tronic fitted to the outgoing C63 AMG saloon and estate (facelifted versions of these models will also get the new gearbox) is truly eye-opening.

In manual mode, instead of reluctantly reaching for a ratio seemingly seconds after you've requested it from the wheel-mounted paddles, the transmission obliges with the apparent pace of a twin-clutch gearbox - and high-rev upchanges are accompanied by a sharp crack from the quad exhausts that leaves you in no doubt that this car really is trying its darnedest to change gear for you as rapidly as possible.


The new gearbox is equally impressive in automatic mode. There are three options to choose from here. There's 'C', which apparently stands for controlled efficiency, for your most relaxed motoring. Next there's 'S', which sharpens up throttle response and holds onto gears for longer. Finally there is 'S+', which is like 'S', only more so. In fact, 'S+' is sufficiently intuitive of what gear you want and when, that on a circuit you'd be hard pushed to better its juggling of ratios if you took it upon yourself to change gears manually.

It's a fairly accomplished drivetrain, then. The good news is that this is complemented by an equally appealing chassis. The saloon and estate variants can hardly be described as having poorly resolved chassis, but the sheer size of them (despite being loosely pigeon-holed as 'compact' executives, there's still a lot of mass to be controlled in a C63 saloon or wagon) means that they' are more hot rod than pin-point sports car.


The C63 AMG coupe is a much sharper proposition, however. Don't get us wrong, at 1730kg the C63 coupe is still a fairly hefty beast, but its lower centre of gravity and slightly wider track affect the way it behaves on the road more than you'd expect. You'll not think someone's plonked you behind the wheel of a Porsche Cayman S, but there's the sort of surefootedness, sense of high-speed stability and a willingness to change direction, particularly on the fast, sweeping A-roads of southern Spain where we tested the car, that drivers of much more lithe sports coupes would recognise.

Get the big coupe onto a circuit, however and you'll quickly come to realise that the C63 AMG isn't the sort of car to hoon around a track with every weekend. Rock up to the odd track day in it and you'll have a hoot, barrelling down the straights and enjoying the pleasantly loose rear end. But you'll cook the brakes and tyres pretty quickly, and you may find the constant battle for rear-end traction a mite frustrating, although provided you specify the optional limited-slip differential you can indulge yourself (and your local tyre supplier) with all manner of smoky silliness.


So the C63 AMG Coupe is pretty good - mega, in fact - but the big question is whether you go for this at £56,665, a BMW M3 at £57,240, or an Audi RS5 at £58,725. Had it been fitted with the 7G-tronic rather than the MCT gearbox, we'd have probably plumped for an M3, but as it is it's a ridiculously tough call to make and one that in the end boils down personal preference over such vagaries as styling and brand perception. But put it this way - if you went for the Merc you would not be disappointed.

  C 63 AMG Coupé
Displacement 6208 cc
Bore x stroke 102.2 x 94.6 mm
Compression ratio 11.3 : 1
Output 457 hp at 6800 rpm
487 hp at 6800 rpm*
Max. torque 600 Nm at 5000 rpm
Engine weight (dry) 195 kg
192 kg*
Fuel consumption NEDC combined 23.5 mpg
CO2 emissions 280 g/km

Acceleration 0 – 62 mph

 

4.5 s

4.4 s*

Top speed 155 mph**

* with AMG performance package; ** electronically limited



 

Author: Riggers