Wednesday 20th June 2012


DRIVEN: MERCEDES C63 AMG COUPE

The Black Series may be grabbing the limelight but the 'regular' C63 Coupe is pretty special too...


What with the bruisingly effective Mercedes C63 AMG Black Series stealing the hearts of the likes of Mr Chris Harris, it's easy to forget about the humble 'normal' C63 AMG Coupe. Not that humble or normal are particularly appropriate adjectives for a car with 6.2 litres and 457 hp-worth of V8 under the bonnet.

Enjoy it while you can - the last of its kind?
Enjoy it while you can - the last of its kind?
So it was with that in mind that we decided to get one into the PH office for a few days, to see whether or not the less exotic charms of the non-Black Series car were still as beguiling in Blighty. We knew the answer was likely to be 'yes', the car having impressed when we drove the C63Coupe in Spain with its blend of subtly muscular looks, overtly muscular V8 and tidy, faithful rear-drive handling.

But it would have been unprofessional of us not to make sure...

Last gasp
The C63 is pretty much the last outpost of the naturally aspirated 6.2-litre M156 V8 in a moderately mainstream Mercedes, too. With AMG's new twin-turbo V8 now slotting into more or less every new AMG Mercedes (yes, all right not the forthcoming AMG A-class or the naturally aspirated SLK55, but you know what we mean), the 6,208cc V8's days are numbered. In fact, it only survives in the AMG C-Classes because those two turbos mean the new unit won't actually fit into the car's engine bay.

Engine dominates C63, in a very good way
Engine dominates C63, in a very good way
Whatever the reason for the old V8's continued existence, it is a fact to celebrate because, however green, efficient and downright effective the newer twin-turbo V8 may be, there's an old-school honesty to the C63's engine that makes it thoroughly beguiling.

Call it character, if you will, but the power builds in the free-breathing, big-hearted V8 to a bellowing climax towards its 6,800rpm peak in a way that you just don't get with forced-induction engines. Of course the problem in the clogged UK road network is that you don't get to enjoy it for very long all that often and if you head towards the top of third or fourth gears on UK roads you're going to be going at deeply naughty speeds. Then again you could just find a relatively quiet motorway and you can spend a merry hour or so just accelerating, decelerating and running in a lower gear than you strictly need to. We did.

It's a simple recipe but one we can all enjoy
It's a simple recipe but one we can all enjoy
Swing low
The C63 is more than just an engine, of course, and the slightly wider track and lower centre of gravity it gets compared with saloon and estate C63 AMGs makes it handle with rather more aplomb than something weighing a chunky 1,730kg has any right to. It seems to be a bit of an AMG hallmark, as Harris reckons the C63 Black Series repeats just that trick - agility and a deftness of dynamic touch despite the kerbweight.

It's no lightweight special of course, but point it at an empty, winding road and it deals with lumps and bumps firmly but without any crashiness, changes direction adroitly and generally behaves in a less hot-roddy way than you would think. It's doubly impressive that it behaves with the same sort of surefooted stability on the slower, tighter, bumpier roads of Britain as it did on the high speed sweepers of southern Spain where we first tried it out. Especially given the more point-and-squirt charms of its saloon and estate brethren.

Sluggish paddle shifting is the only real issue
Sluggish paddle shifting is the only real issue
Fly in the ointment
It's not perfect, mind. When we first drove the car, we praised the seven-speed MCT-7 gearbox, and in comparison with the lethargy of the old 7G-tronic that pre-coupe C63s were lumbered with it's a world better. It's intuitive enough in 'S+' mode, in fact, to make you wonder what the point of the wheel-mounted paddles are.

It's those paddle shifts that spoil things a touch, to tell the truth. Sure it's more than responsive and intuitive enough in auto mode, but if you want to change gears yourself, it still doesn't respond as crisply or as faithfully as a decent twin-clutch set-up would.

Manual-mode quibbles aside, however, the C63 is as fine a musclebound coupe in Blighty as you'll get. Doesn't stop us wanting the Black Series version even more, though...


MERCEDES C63 AMG COUPE
Engine:
6,208cc V8
Transmission:7-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp):457@6,800rpm (487 with performance pack)
Torque (lb ft):443@5,000rpm
0-62mph:4.5sec (4.4 with performance pack)
Top speed:155mph
Weight:1,730kg
MPG:23.5mpg (NEDC combined)
CO2:280g/km
Price: 57,775

Author: Riggers
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