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Thursday 5th July 2012

C63 Black Series: The perfect road car?

Harris finds that, despite its trackday aggression, the C63 Black makes the perfect road-trip companion



I had a stunning drive a few months ago. We finished shooting the C63 Black Series, the GT3 RS 4.0 and the M3 GTS video, and instead of battling the Friday traffic on the M6 and M5, videographer Neil and myself drove the length of Wales in the Merc and the BMW. Sadly for him, I started in the C63, and didn't once offer to swap.

Hardcore, yes, but also great on the road
Hardcore, yes, but also great on the road
Now the C63 Black is slightly old news in the UK - the big tests and videos have been done - but that drive left a lasting impression, because it reminded me of the underlying importance to this passion of ours of two things - a car that can be driven and enjoyed on the public highway, and the availability of those highways to accommodate that enjoying. The way things are just now, it's not hard to assume that both of these no longer exist - but they do.

The road less travelled
We started out mid-afternoon from Betws-y-Coed and wiggled a route through Bala and through the guts of Wales. We didn't see much traffic, and within a few miles I was reminded just how liberating a great road drive can be: if track driving is pounding lengths in a swimming pool, the endlessly changing highways and hedgerow-heights of the Principality are the open ocean - they're uninhibited and unpredictable, and most of all they lead somewhere. In this case my own bed after several days away. All of this combines into a completely different experience to simply extracting maximum performance at a dedicated location.

C63 oozes menace, makes sky cloudy...
C63 oozes menace, makes sky cloudy...
And it's in this role that the C63 Black excels: which is slightly curious because the face it presents to the world is one of lap-times and undiluted aggression. Nothing could be further from the truth. Running sticky Dunlops, the C63 BS (that's Black Series to you lot tittering at the back) is a remarkable concoction of seemingly conflicting personalities: supple, relaxing, exciting, composed and utterly hair-brained.

Why road trips are tough
On that drive it had the chance to demonstrate every one of those traits, and I suppose that's what sets road-journeying apart from any other motoring discipline - it requires more of a car in every dynamic area. That's why track-tests will only ever be a sideshow to the main event: unless you have a dedicated track-car, the majority of your driving will always be on the public road. Yet so many of the fast cars I drive are either poorly suited to - or just plain unsuitable for - everyday road use. And what is it that normally renders them pointless? Not power, or torque, or squeaky brakes, or even weather protection - no, it's harsh suspension that kills them for me.

AMG surprises with compliant suspension
AMG surprises with compliant suspension
The facts of life on UK roads in 2012 are not good. The network is crumbling, the surfaces are mostly terrible and we're too skint to repair them. The double whammy is that the country where most performance cars are now developed, Germany, has great roads and is therefore on a mission to throw more spring rate at every new model. So German cars become less compatible with UK roads with each passing year. And then Mercedes gives us the C63 Black Series, whose suspension is so well suited to making time in the UK you wonder if it wasn't signed-off here. I did check; it wasn't.

The Anti-GT-R
It's just so pleasant to drive a car that works with its surroundings rather than fights them. In this respect it's the antithesis to the Nissan GT-R, a car which is faster in the dry and on a different planet in the wet, but which leaves you genuinely fatigued and frazzled after even a fairly short drive. When people ask me if they should buy a GT-R, I always ask if they mind NVH, because the GT-R is an NVH factory. The C63 Black is the opposite. It's also £30K more expensive.

Engine is a monster...
Engine is a monster...
There have always been a few cars that just 'work' in the UK. Again, if you deconstruct their attributes, they tend to be those with more supple suspension, more wheel travel and less sensitivity to the crown of the road. The C63 does snaffle out cambers, but otherwise it ticks all the boxes - and it has other tools perfect for road driving.

It's not just about power
Torque and noise are chief among them. Personally, I love seeing that black and white de-restrict sign and leaving the motor in a lower gear just to feel it lug and pull. On a track, you just use the gear that gives the very best acceleration, but out in the real world in a C63 that just isn't practical, so you work with fewer revs and try to deliver yourself the best combination of acceptable thrust, noise, and efficiency.

Not a setting for road use
Not a setting for road use
I know it sounds bonkers, but one way of subduing the temptation to drive a car like this at speeds which will quickly land you in trouble is to keep the average mpg live on the clock face and see how effectively you can cover ground while managing low fuel consumption - a relative term in the case of this AMG.

I already knew that the C63 Black was a great road car, but it just got better and better during prolonged exposure, because it trod that fine line between excitement and irritation - providing heaps of the former and none of the latter.



Chris Harris
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Author Discussion

HeMightBeBanned

Original Poster:

218 posts

65 months

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Thursday 5th July 2012 quote quote all
Massive want!

sideways sid

456 posts

102 months

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Thursday 5th July 2012 quote quote all
Is it worth the price premium over the 'standard'/non-Black C63?

tomellingham

71 posts

52 months

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Thursday 5th July 2012 quote quote all
Does it only come in matte black?

E38Ross

15,428 posts

99 months

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Thursday 5th July 2012 quote quote all
"it's not only about power" - next line - "...torque..."

erm.....WTF? doesn't torque directly relate to power?

kambites

41,307 posts

108 months

[news] 
Thursday 5th July 2012 quote quote all
E38Ross said:
"it's not only about power" - next line - "...torque..."

erm.....WTF? doesn't torque directly relate to power?
Only at a given engine speed.
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Mattygooner

4,503 posts

91 months

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Thursday 5th July 2012 quote quote all
If your Batman.


E38Ross

15,428 posts

99 months

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Thursday 5th July 2012 quote quote all
kambites said:
E38Ross said:
"it's not only about power" - next line - "...torque..."

erm.....WTF? doesn't torque directly relate to power?
Only at a given engine speed.
my point exactly. so by saying it has more torque you're saying at given rpm it's making more power.....so it is about power then.

the "low down torque" meaning surely just relates to extra schnell by the fact the engine is producing more power. i can't see how Chris says it's not about power, but then says it's about torque....it's daft.

kambites

41,307 posts

108 months

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Thursday 5th July 2012 quote quote all
The word "power" used on its own by motoring journalists is almost always an abbreviation for "peak power". Technically incorrect, perhaps, but perfectly clear once you've seen it a few times.

tommy vercetti

8,257 posts

50 months

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Thursday 5th July 2012 quote quote all
This or the clk63 black series?

CYMR0

3,076 posts

87 months

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Thursday 5th July 2012 quote quote all
E38Ross said:
kambites said:
E38Ross said:
"it's not only about power" - next line - "...torque..."

erm.....WTF? doesn't torque directly relate to power?
Only at a given engine speed.
my point exactly. so by saying it has more torque you're saying at given rpm it's making more power.....so it is about power then.

the "low down torque" meaning surely just relates to extra schnell by the fact the engine is producing more power. i can't see how Chris says it's not about power, but then says it's about torque....it's daft.
It's a circular argument but you can have more power by adding more rpm to the same torque. So a car with lots of power could have little torque but you get it by keeping the engine at high RPM. The torque can be nearer constant throughout the rev range, meaning you get more power at any given RPM - but the power will change throughout the rev range (linearly, if constant) whereas the torque won't (or at least, less so).

Mr2Mike

12,481 posts

142 months

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Thursday 5th July 2012 quote quote all
I could see this being a slightly unrewarding road car in the long term; just so much power that you don't don't have to put in the slightest bit of effort to reach obscene speeds and you wouldn't be able to use it to a fraction of it's potential on most roads anyway.

It's also a Merc and therefore has clinical German blandness designed into it.

Moog72

498 posts

64 months

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Thursday 5th July 2012 quote quote all
Naive perhaps, but what is NVH please?

kambites

41,307 posts

108 months

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Thursday 5th July 2012 quote quote all
Moog72 said:
Naive perhaps, but what is NVH please?
Noise, Vibration and Harshness.

Vitorio

513 posts

30 months

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Thursday 5th July 2012 quote quote all
tomellingham said:
Does it only come in matte black?
Top Gear had a bright yellow one for the review, looks even more bonkers then a matte black one, especially when rapidly converting tyres into smoke.

Chris71

20,749 posts

129 months

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Thursday 5th July 2012 quote quote all
I'd love to have a go in one of those. Was so impressed by the delicacy and precision of the standard C63 AMG - it's so much more than the big dumb muscle car I expected and I'd take one over an M3 without a moment's hesitation.

Prof Prolapse

9,974 posts

77 months

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Thursday 5th July 2012 quote quote all
That is one fking evil looking car.

300bhp/ton

29,629 posts

77 months

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Thursday 5th July 2012 quote quote all
Question for Chris. How does something like this C63 Black compare to the sensation/fun and performance of the Camaro ZL1 and Mustang GT500 you've just driven?


Vastly different prices, but quite similar cars I suspect in more ways than one. Although the Merc obviously being far more lavish and luxury.

Mitch2.0

198 posts

74 months

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Thursday 5th July 2012 quote quote all
I love efficent driving. Covering ground quickly, but doing it by using the low and midrange, not going wide open on the throttle and coasting to sap speed before braking early and lightly for corners. You still get home in 80% of the time as if you'd cained it and, and use half as much fuel, plus it's so much more relaxed, but without being boring.

epom

2,717 posts

48 months

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Thursday 5th July 2012 quote quote all
Mattygooner said:
If your Batman.
whyyyy so serious ??

philmots

3,268 posts

147 months

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Thursday 5th July 2012 quote quote all
Nice car.

Id want mine without the big rear spoiler and the little ones on the front bumper I think they spoil the looks.

Imagine the old CLK Black? Like that but this car. Looks so much nicer.
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