It was always going to be a wrench having the keys to the C63 taken from me. In this line of work cars come and go and it becomes possible to rationalise the enjoyment of them for a week here or couple of days there without ever losing sight of the fact they belong to someone else and it's just a brief fling.
Bike racks removed for twilight period
But with the C63 it was the real deal and I really, really fell for it. It's safe to say I'm set on owning one of these things in the hopefully not too distant future, so perfectly did this car fit with my tastes and - hateful word - lifestyle. This was never really in doubt though, my status as a bit of a Mercedes and AMG fanboy pretty much set in stone. I like estate cars. I like V8s. It might have seemed a foregone conclusion but even I was shocked at how deeply I fell for KY63 ZRK and what a gaping hole it leaves on its departure.
Why so smitten? Let's try and sum up what I've been wittering about these past few months. It's got to be about the engine. The combination of basically an SLS spec version of the M156 V8 and a family estate is something we'll likely never see again. Sure, there are and will be other V8 AMG wagons. But there's something about this particular combination of extremes.
Well, they were probably changing tyres anyway
My love affair with AMGs stretches back a long way, from running a C43 in a previous gig at Mercedes Enthusiast magazine to being lucky enough to have driven pretty much every significant car to leave Affalterbach. And one of my all-time favourites is
the CLK63 Black
. I loved its understated hardman looks, the extra savagery of its V8 and its stance and muscular driving style. If only they did one with a better gearbox. If only they had that powertrain and personality but in a wagon body.
I had to wait a few years but the 507 is pretty much that car. The 507hp power output is the same as that of the CLK Black, the torque down a little but the added bite and precision of that later MCT wet clutch/automatic hybrid gearbox more than making up for it. And it's a wagon! The influence of the CLK Black weighed heavily over the whole C63 range from the start, making it only fitting this run-out version tipped its hat.
The other overriding characteristic of the C63 I love is its simplicity. Passive dampers brilliantly matched to burly but not uncompromising spring rates, weighty hydraulic steering, great brakes, superbly crafted noise from the exhausts that seems entirely natural and ever present but never intrusive and a very straightforward driving style.
C63 + borrowed Clio 200 = perfect fleet
Speed, cornering attitude, sound and balance are not dialled up by ploughing through endless mode settings and user configurable nonsense - they're simply controlled by right foot and steering inputs. Potter along and the C63 is as civilised as any C-Class. Extend the throttle and it becomes an absolute wildman, especially in the last couple of thousand rpm. Here the 507 shows its class over even the Performance Pack equipped standard '63, the way it picks up speed in the engine's upper reaches simply astonishing. Every single time I drove this car there was a point where it would have me muttering expletives; truly the novelty didn't wear off once in over 6,000 miles. And that's saying something.
Amid the madness there's subtlety too. In a last hurrah at Brands Hatch GP and able to turn everything off the 507 felt hefty and a little clumsy initially. But settling down, calming the corner entry speeds and revelling in the predictability of the low-geared steering I was able to savour every corner exit as initial understeer could be bled out with earlier and earlier throttle inputs. Traction with the mechanical locking diff in the dry is awesome in mid to high-speed corners with just a hint of a rotation under full power and a delicious unweighting of the wheel as the rear axle dictates direction of travel before unleashing the V8's grunt up the straights, gobbling up race cars and track day specials alike. I got away with one second gear gassing out of Druids leaving smoke hanging in the air and prompt waving of the 'No Drifting!' boards but other than that kept it relatively low key.
Sad times; the C63 is loaded up and whisked away
A few owners have mentioned overheating gearboxes and wilting brakes on track but even after 20 hard driven laps of Brands the 507's pedal remained dependably strong and the temperatures - visible via the outrageously extravagant AMG Monitor - bang on.
And all this in a grey Mercedes estate with bike racks on the roof and a big boot.
Moans? OK. Fuel consumption is obviously fairly profligate but I think an 18mpg average over the entire 6,381 miles isn't outrageous. More of a problem is the small fuel tank; you don't dare go below a quarter tank meaning you're always stopping for top-ups. Tyre noise is a bit intrusive and the offset and overly tall driving position isn't perfect, though the seats themselves are very comfy. And for town driving the C mode is a bit sluggish off the line while S or S+ have your head thwacking the headrest and provoke moans from passengers. And there isn't a huge amount of room in the back either - my 18-month-old's feet were scuffing the back of the passenger seat even in its mid position. And the power tailgate, like all such things, was more of a nuisance than a convenience. Pointless.
For its bear-hug charisma, ability to turn every journey no matter how mundane into something to savour and the sheer lunacy of its basic premise this remains a very special car though. I'll be watching the classifieds very closely indeed...
Farewell blast at Brands onboard vid
Car: 2013 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Edition 507
Run by: Dan
On fleet since: March 2014
List price new: £68,470 before options (£80,075 as tested, comprising Privacy Glass £330, reversing camera £390, Lighting Package £150, three-zone climate control £590, Keyless Go £665, AMG Performance Media £2,040, Comand Online with six-disc changer £250, DAB £335, Harmon Kardon surround sound £650, phone pre-wiring with roof aerial £290, Designo Magno Platinum paint £3,660, rear axle limited-slip differential £1,745 and 19-inch wheels £510)
Last month at a glance: It's all over and Mercedes has its C63 back ... never raced or rallied, honest