Something evil this way comes
The new-for-2008 C-Class has only been on sale a few months, but Mercedes has wasted no time in bringing us the Maximum Strength version. You know the usual AMG brew: take a standard model, add bags of power, sharpen up the handling, super-size the brakes/wheels/tires, upgrade the interior, add some body armor, and limit the production to a handful to keep things exclusive. Behold the C63.
In case you're wondering how this sophisticated, 451 horsepower, pit-bull-of-a-compact sport sedan compares to the BMW M3 and Lexus IS-F, we'll have that answer for you soon enough. But the Bad Little Benz out-powers both (the BMW spools out 414 horsepower, the 5.0-liter Lexus is rated at 420). Power isn't everything...but it's an important something to many enthusiasts. Even though the car is named in honor of the original Mercedes 6.3-liter limo motor from the 1960s, it's actually 6.2-liters in displacement. Another important number is torque: 443 pounds feet of torque. Chrysler's vaunted 6.1-liter Hemi - an impressive piece, for sure - is rated at 420. This machine grabs you the minute you light the motor, and the four big exhaust pipes erupt. It gurgles to the delight of everyone, inside or outside the car. Let off the throttle, and it burbles on the overrun.Wonderful.
The seven-speed, AMG calibrated paddle tranny shifts quickly and responsively; not quite like the best DSG type robotic manual boxes, but snappy on the upshift with a rev-matching blip on the downshift. Leave it in Comfort mode, and it melts from gear to gear. Select Sport, and the shifts are faster, and come at higher rpm. Choose Manual, and drive it off the steering wheel paddles. No, there's no manual or DSG tranny to be had, but Mercedes makes this one work just fine.
The cabin is all biz, with firm, thickly bolstered sport seats. Although a couple of our staffers felt they were too firm, most agreed they were appropriate for the car, and perfect for the race track. The steering wheel that's squared off on the bottom just like a racecar's, and the sides of the wheel are upholstered in grippy, dimpled leather. We appreciated the pop-up nav screen that's there, and large, when you want it, and gone when you don't feel like staring at one. Sure, there are lots of buttons on the IP and center stack, but many still prefer this to BMW's iDrive controller philosophy. If there's another downside to this (or any new) C-Class, is a dearth of rear seat legroom, even though this new gen C is longer than the last. The aforementioned body work includes flared fenders, bulging to cover the racy rolling stock, and a 1.4 inch increase in track.
The C63 boasts nicely weighted, communicative steering; something we used to beat up on Mercedes-Benz for not delivering. The ride is firm, as you'd expect, but not punishing. The brakes deliver supercar-like 103 foot stops from 60, but don't communicate as well as the steering does. And how 'bout 0.95 on the skid pad? Talk about sticktion. And I can confirm, with no hesitation, that this musclecar Benz has no trouble hitting its 155 mph, electronically capped speed limit. The word is that, beginning with the '09 model year, buyers will be able to specify an option that deletes the limiter. At that point, expect an easy 185.
The C63 is shockingly quick, and a well balanced piece, as most AMG models are. And there's a masculine character about it that's been lacking in every previous C-Class. The Bauhaus design works well, especially when fully kitted to AMG spec. More than anything, I love its high level of emotion - something more cars need more of.
Drivetrain layout: Front engine, RWD
Engine type: 90 V-8, alum block/heads
Valvetrain: DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
Displacement: 378.8 cu in/6208 cc
Compression ratio: 11.3:1
Power (SAE NET) 451 hp @ 6800 rpm
Torque (SAE NET) 443 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
Weight to power: 8.9 lb/hp
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Suspension, front; rear Control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Steering ratio: 13.5:1
Turns lock-to-lock: 3
Brakes, f;r: 14.2-in vented disc: 13.0-in vented disc, ABS
Wheels: 8.0 x 18; 8.5 x 18.0 in, cast aluminum
Tires: 235/40-18; 255/35-18, Pirelli PZero 95Y
Wheelbase: 108.9 in
Track, f/r : 61.7/60.0 in
Length x width x height: 186.0 x 70.7 x 56.6
Curb weight: 4004 lb
Weight dist., f/r: 53/47 %
Seating capacity: 5
Acceleration to mph
0-30 1.6 sec
Passing, 45-65 mph 2.0 sec
Quarter mile 12.5 sec @ 113.5 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 103 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.95 g (avg)
MT figure eight 24.9 sec @ 0.78 g (avg)
Top-gear revs @ 60 mph 1700 rpm
Base price: $55,925
Price as tested: $63,930
Stability/traction control: Yes/yes
Airbags: Dual front, front side
Basic warranty: 4 yrs/50,000 miles
Powertrain warranty: 4 yrs/50,000 miles
Roadside assistance: Unlimited
Fuel capacity: 19.5
EPA city/hwy econ: 12/19
CO2 emissions: N/A
Recommended fuel: Premium
On Sale: April 2008